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Concerns over Hammond's IHT 'simplification'

Concerns over Hammond's IHT 'simplification'

Chancellor Philip Hammond's plans to simplify inheritance tax may end up further complicating matters, tax specialists have warned.

Speaking to a packed audience at the FTAdviser Tax Efficient Investment seminar, Sally Boyle, head of marketing for tax-efficient investments at Octopus Investments, expressed scepticism about whether Mr Hammond's desired simplicity would actually achieve what it aims to do, and be delivered in a meaningful way to investors.

"We have found 'simplification' does not always mean 'simplification'," she said.

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On Tuesday (30 January), the chancellor announced he had written to the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS), with a view to rethinking the inheritance tax (IHT) regime.

The idea behind his letter is for the OTS to focus on ensuring the system is fit for purpose and to make the experience of those who interact with it as smooth as possible.

Jack Rose, head of the tax-efficient division for LGBR Capital, agreed: "I always feel a bit of trepidation whenever I hear the government is talking about simplification. 

"It is clear the tax system is becoming harder and harder and we'd want to look more closely at the outcomes of the review."

Richard Hoskins, co-founder of Kin Capital, agreed, adding that there could be an ulterior motive to the chancellor's request. He explained: "I don't think this is really about simplification. 

"Given how big the UK's deficit is, I think who knows what will happen [as a result of the review into IHT]."

The UK current account deficit was at £22.8bn in the third quarter of 2017, at 4.5 per cent of GDP. 

Fellow-panellist Sam Plumptre, chief executive for investment platform Co-Investor, commented that if it does make it "easier for the average person to understand", then he was all in favour of some measure of simplification to the current regime.

Last year, the OTS identified IHT last year as one area it particularly wanted to tackle. It is understood that any review will be wide-ranging and will focus on the technical and administrative issues within IHT, such as the process of submitting returns, the way in which gifts are used, and paying any tax due, as well as practical issues around routine estate planning and disclosure.

However, some industry commentators have expressed concern the review might also curtail the way in which gift rules interact with the wider IHT system, and whether it might affect any decisions surrounding transfers, investments and other transactions which investors currently make.

Ms Boyle was not worried that any changes to the IHT regime would affect the use of business property relief (BPR), which is popular among advisers and wealthier clients as a means of mitigating IHT through investing in qualifying companies.