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When is £1m not £1m?

When is £1m not £1m?

The Residential Nil Rate Band (RNRB) was first announced in 2015 and will be available from 6 April 2017. Initially set at £100,000, it will increase by £25,000 each year until it reaches £175,000 in April 2020.

The standard nil rate band is frozen until April 2021, after which both bands will increase in line with CPI. This means that in the 2020/21 tax year, each individual will be able to pass on up to £500,000 and a married couple or civil partners, up to £1m.

Will everyone be able to benefit from this?

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The RNRB is only available on death so cannot be used for lifetime gifting, and as you would expect, comes with conditions. So let us consider some of the key points around the RNRB, when it is available and when it may not be available. 

Qualifying residential interest

The RNRB is only available to those who held a ‘qualifying residential interest’ immediately before death. They must have owned all or part of the property at the time of death and this property must have been their residence but not necessarily their main residence. Therefore ownership of an investment property is not a qualifying interest.

Those who have released equity will be affected, as it is the net value of the home that will be used; any outstanding loan against the property will have to be deducted first.

Any individuals who do not own their home will be unable to utilise the RNRB as they will not have a qualifying residential interest, however, there are provisions for those that have sold a property. For example if the deceased owned a property after 7 July 2015 which is subsequently sold or downsized because they are moving into residential care.

Lineal Descendants

The property, or cash if the deceased downsized, needs to be ‘closely inherited’; passing to lineal descendants such as children or grandchildren, including adopted children, step-children, fostered children and those under guardianship. A spouse, surviving spouse or surviving civil partner of a lineal descendant, who has not remarried by the time of the property owner’s death, is also included.

If there are no lineal descendants then the RNRB will not be available.

Transferring unused allowance

Similar to the standard inheritance tax IHT nil rate band, any unused RNRB can be transferred between spouses and civil partners and must be claimed within two years from the end of the month in which the second death occurs.

Where the first death occurs before April 2017, an unused RNRB of 100 per cent will be deemed to be available when the surviving spouse or civil partner subsequently dies, regardless of whether or not the first to die owned a qualifying residential interest or not.

Large estates

There is also a ‘taper threshold’ for large estates, which is initially set at £2m, reducing the RNRB by £1 for every £2 over the threshold. So, when the RNRB is introduced at its initial level of £100,000, an estate of £2.2m or higher will mean there will be no RNRB available. This rises to £2.35m for the 2020/21 tax year when the RNRB is £175,000. This doesn’t account for any transferrable RNRB which the deceased’s estate may be entitled to.