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Advisers’ top 3 inheritance tax queries

Inheritance tax (IHT) is a hot topic for advisers of late, no doubt fuelled by last year’s review from the Office of Tax Simplification1 and the updates expected with every Budget announcement from the Chancellor. But it seems like the review has also added to the confusion around a couple of key issues concerning IHT. Canada Life’s ican Technical Services Team answers thousands of queries every year on topics of vital importance to advisers. With IHT frequently topping the list of advisers’ concerns, we’ve analysed the most common questions we receive to give you our top three IHT queries.

1. If, on first death, everything is left to the surviving spouse/civil partner, does the survivor now have a lifetime gift threshold of £650,000?   

Unfortunately, the answer is no, as any available transferable nil rate band (TNRB) can only be used against the IHT arising on the death of the surviving spouse - it cannot be used by the surviving spouse/civil partner for lifetime gifting.  

There is also a lot of confusion around transferring the residence nil rate band (RNRB), which was introduced in April 2017. The RNRB is transferable between spouses/civil partners on death, much like the standard nil rate band (NRB). It is the unused percentage of the RNRB from the estate of the first to die which can be claimed on the second death. If the first death occurred before April 2017, on the survivor’s death there will be a 100% RNRB available irrespective of whether the first death owned residential property. However, if the first death’s estate was greater than £2m, then the RNRB would be tapered.

It is also important to remember here that NRBs transfer as percentages not amounts, ensuring the NRB at the time of the second death is increased by the proportion of the NRB unused on the first death.

2. What needs to be included when valuing a trust?

The answer depends on the type of trust. Calculating the value of a trust is relatively straightforward if you are dealing with a discretionary gift trust, however it is a little more complicated for gift and loan trusts and discounted gift trusts.

Under a gift and loan trust, any outstanding loan due back to the settlor needs to be deducted from the value of the trust.

For a discounted gift trust, if the settlor is still alive, the trustees have an obligation to provide regular payments to them and the actuarial value of this commitment should be deducted from the value of the trust.

When looking at what distributions need to be factored into the periodic charge calculation, these refer to distributions to beneficiaries.

If the trust allows reversions back to the settlor and these are correctly carved out in the trust at outset, they will not be treated as distributions. Likewise, neither will any loan repayments made to a settlor under a gift and loan trust be treated as a distribution.

Trustees will need to be aware of previous transfers made by the settlor and that these gifts can have an impact for the lifetime of the trust. As more and more discretionary trusts are approaching their tenth anniversary, questions around how the periodic charge is calculated have increased.

3. When does the 14-year shadow take effect on CLTs and PETs?

People have heard of the 14-year shadow (which relates to gift trust exemptions) but are unsure when it becomes relevant. The 14-year shadow is only an issue if, on death, the total of the Chargeable Lifetime Transfers (CLTs) and Potentially Exempt Transfers (PETs) made in the previous seven years exceeds the available NRB, meaning that tax is payable.