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Who pays tax on inheritance?

Who pays the inheritance tax (IHT) the giver or receiver?

In the majority of cases where someone has died and the assets in their estate exceed the allowance for their circumstances, then the estate will pay the inheritance tax. This means that the Executors (if there is a will) or Administrators (if there is not) are responsible for organising the payment of IHT to be made to HMRC. The IHT is generally paid directly from the bank account, or other qualifying assets, of the deceased.

Who is liable for IHT?

One of the historical issues around this problem is that a large amount of IHT has to be paid before a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration (if there is no will), is issued by the Court. If there are no liquid funds in the estate, for example just property and no cash, HMRC will expect the Executors/Administrator’s to obtain a bridging loan to pay the initial amount so that the Grant can be issued and the property in the estate sold. If this is not possible in exceptional cases HMRC will issue what is called a Grant on Credit. This is very technical and something which one would need to take specific legal advice on. The IHT owed is then repaid as soon as the property in the estate is sold.

However, there can be a trap with the payment of IHT, whereby you will be personally liable for the tax, of which many people are unaware. If the deceased made lots of gifts during the seven years prior to their death and these exceed the deceased nil rate band of £325,000, then the recipient of the gift is liable to pay the IHT. This can catch people out who have received gifts in the years previous to death and all the money has been spent. It can be difficult to then find 40% of the value of a gift which would be due to HMRC at that stage.

What is a gift for IHT purposes? This can be cash, investments, property, cars, jewellery, art, furniture and the list goes on. Anything which has value and has the effect of reducing the value of the estate of the person making the gift is a gift for IHT purposes.

Over the years I have calls from many clients asking if they can give their house to their children but remain living in the property. This is an absolute no no as HMRC will still consider that asset to be part of the deceased estate and they will pay IHT on the full value, despite paying for the transfer and leaving themselves vulnerable with no security of tenure within their own home. We call these types of gifts, gifts with reservation of benefit, and even if the transfer was made 20 years ago or more, you cannot eat your cake and have it too.

Do you pay tax on inherited money in the UK?

Inheritance tax, deceased estates and lifetime tax planning are complex areas. There are many solutions available and it is important to consider all of the taxes in turn before deciding to make a gift or giving money into a trust. We have a very experienced team on hand to advise and plan on all the aspects I have mentioned above and can help with as much or as little as you require.

My advice? Ensure that your affairs are in order with proper planning to reduce any nasty surprises later down the line!


Jessica Partridge 

Associate Solicitor