Inheritance TaxJun 18 2019

Adviser calls on govt to speed up IHT review

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Adviser calls on govt to speed up IHT review
ByAmy Austin

Financial advice firm NFU Mutual has called on the next prime minister to simplify inheritance tax (IHT) rules for individuals passing on pensions.

NFU Mutual has called on the various leadership hopefuls to pick up the pace on the "much-needed" reform of the UK’s IHT regime.

In particular, it has called for the next prime minister to remove the uncertainty around the IHT treatment of pensions.

In most circumstances, money left in pensions on death can be passed on free of IHT but if someone transfers their pension while in ill health and then dies within two years the family may receive an unexpected tax bill.

In this instance, HM Revenue & Customs may take the view that the transfer was made primarily to improve the death benefits for the family.

A long-running case on this issue, known as the Staveley case, is to enter the Supreme Court next year, although no official date has been set.

The case involves a woman, Ms Staveley, who, after an acrimonious divorce, transferred a portion of a pension she had set up with her husband into a new pot and bequeathed it to her children. She died a few weeks later.

Because the woman was terminally ill, HMRC treated the transfer as a "chargeable lifetime transfer" followed by an "omission to act" as she did not draw any benefits, and applied IHT. 

It argued the two actions were linked and designed to reduce the value of her estate for IHT purposes.

NFU Mutual called for the current system, where IHT is levied on what individuals leave behind, to be replaced with a tax on the recipient.

This would mean each recipient would have a tax-free allowance based on their relationship to the deceased. 

For example, a child of the deceased could receive £250,000 from a parent during their lifetime or on death, with a simple sliding scale for other relatives depending on the nature of the relationship. The recipient would then pay tax on any amount above these tax-free limits.

NFU Mutual stated this approach was designed to maximise the available pot to be shared, rather than the current system which effectively cut it off at the source.

Sean McCann, chartered financial planner at NFU Mutual, said: "Simplifying the current system is long overdue. Far too many elements are fiendishly complex and simply impenetrable for most people. 

"What we need now is a complete overhaul to embrace common sense and pragmatic changes that deliver real clarity for consumers on the issue."

The adviser also called for the residence nil rate band to be abolished and a simplification of gifting allowances.