While leaving your home to a family member is a very generous act, there is the matter of inheritance tax to think about.
One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was once attributed to saying that ‘nothing is certain except for death and taxes.’ Combining the two in the form of inheritance tax seems to only add salt to the wound. Often referred to as “death tax”, inheritance tax is levied on the estate of someone who has passed away. Although this tax only impacts a small number of estates, approximately around 4% in 2014/2015, the amount of revenue has increased annually. As property prices increase, so will the number of people who will be liable to pay the tax.
When does inheritance tax occur?
Inheritance tax is charged at 40% on assets above the current tax-free threshold of £325,000 for an individual and £650,000 for a married couple. Amendments which were introduced in 2017 mean an individual can now transfer an additional £125,000 during the 2018/2019 tax year to their direct descendants, this increases to £150,000 in the 2019/2020 tax year, rising again to £175,000 in 2020/2021.
It is imperative to ensure the right people benefit when you pass away. If you die without a will in place, your estate will be dispersed according to intestacy rules and may attract a higher level of tax.
Is there a way of avoiding inheritance tax?
While inheritance legislation is complicated, there are a lot of ways in which you can legally avoid paying inheritance tax. One of the best ways is reducing the value of your estate by gifting sums of up to £3,000. Every year gifts of up to £3,000 can be given to your spouse or legal partner, a registered charity or a political party and are inheritance tax free. The legislation allows for other types of gifts too, such as variable amounts for weddings or civil ceremonies, the value of which is determined by your relationship. The golden thread is that you must not benefit from the money or assets you give away, because if you do, your estate will still have to pay inheritance tax.
It is possible to give away larger amounts, however, it is far more complex, and you must live for seven years for it to be completely tax free. It is also important to note that, while you might not need the excess cash now, it may be needed later in life, so take that into account before gifting larger sums of money. Concerns about gifting to younger children or grandchildren can be allayed by setting up trust funds to ensure the money is spent wisely.
Tax relief investments
Certain investments, such as a trust fund, do qualify for tax relief provided they are structured in the right way. Remember, however, all investments carry a level of risk and should be assessed on its merit as a sound investment, rather than a means of tax avoidance.
Another effective and essential part of the planning is taking out life insurance, which can be placed in a trust so that your executors can pay any outstanding tax outside your estate.
Before you give everything away though, remember to enjoy the money you’ve worked for and spend it. There’s no need to live on a tight budget just to save money that will be taxed.