Inheritance tax receipts have reached record levels under the current system, as HM Revenue and Customs gathered £4.6bn during 2015/16.
Receipts were 22 per cent higher than in the previous year and nearly £1bn higher than the previous peak in 2007/08.
Since then IHT receipts had slumped after that year because of policy changes and falling house prices but they started rising again in 2010/11.
In its commentary on the figures HMRC said: “Without adjusting for inflation, this is the highest that IHT receipts have been since the current inheritance tax system was introduced in March 1986.
“This is primarily because of rising asset values. Each year, residential property makes up approximately a third of the total value of taxpaying estates and the ongoing rise in property prices has contributed to a rise in overall tax take.
“At the same time, as the average value of estates rises, an increasing number of estates will now be valued over the IHT threshold, which has been frozen at £325,000 since April 2009. An increasing number of estates could, therefore, potentially be liable for IHT.”
This has been bourne out in HMRC’s figures which show more nearly 3.5 per cent of deaths were liable for IHT in 2015/16, compared with around 2.5 per cent in 2010/11.
The figures also showed the use of exemptions and reliefs has been increasing steadily.
In total 34,279 estates with a net value above the nil rate band (including any transferable nil rate band) claimed some reliefs or exemptions in 2013/14 - the most recent figures made available.
This compared with nearly 30,000 in the previous year and more than 25,000 the year before.
Spousal relief accounted for 69 per cent of all relief and exemptions set against assets in 2013/14.
Les Cameron, a tax specialist at Prudential, said: “As the total amount of inheritance tax paid hits a new record high of £4.673bn, so does the value of careful tax planning for anyone looking to cascade as much of their wealth to their families as possible.
“Planning for inheritance tax is at its most valuable when it is done early and has become increasingly important with the additional options and complexities brought about by the new rules allowing individuals to pass on pension savings to family members.”
Most IHT receipts come from the south east and London, with more than £800m paid in the capital alone in 2013/14.
The council area with the most IHT liabilities in 2013/14 was Barnet in London, where 330 estates were liable.
In the March Budget a transferable nil-rate band was announced and is due to be introduced from April 2017. This will apply when a main residence is passed on death to direct descendants.
The allowance will be up to £100,000 in 2017/18, up to £125,000 in 2018/19, up to £150,000 in 2019/20, and up to £175,000 in 2020/21.
There will be a tapered withdrawal of the main residence nil-rate band for estates with a net value of more than £2m. The existing nil-rate band will remain at £325,000 from 2018/19 until the end of 2020/21.