How can I mitigate my potential Inheritance Tax bill on my death?
This is a question that many people ask and inheritance tax planning is very important. Knowing your options could make a massive difference to any potential Inheritance Tax bill on your death.
The most common way to mitigate Inheritance Tax is to gift your assets to your beneficiaries whilst you are still alive, thus reducing your estate for Inheritance Tax purposes. However, if you gift a large sum of money or high-value asset, then you must survive seven years from the date of the gift in order for the value of the gift to no longer form part of your estate for Inheritance Tax. It is important to remember that whatever gift you give away, that it is a genuine gift and that you do not retain any kind of benefit from the assets given away, otherwise no matter how long you survive after the gift it may still form part of your estate for Inheritance Tax. An example of this would be a parent transferring their property into the names of their children, but continue to live there free of charge. This is a gift with reservation of benefit and the value of the property would still form part of the estate of the parent even after seven years. One way around this in this scenario would be for the parent to pay the market rent to the children to live there and then the gift is genuine, as they are not living there for free as though it is still their asset.
There are other gifts that can be given that do not require the donor to survive seven years. You may use your annual gift allowance, which is a total of £3,000 per financial year. You may also go back and use the previous year’s allowance if you did not use it, for example, if you did not give any gifts in the last financial year (2015/2016) then in this current financial year you could gift up to £6,000 as an individual, or £12,000 as a couple. You may, however, only go back one year to use any unused gift allowance.
If you receive an income which exceeds your outgoings to maintain your standard of living, then you may also give regular gifts out of income. In this case, you must have the intention of giving away income regularly and retain enough income to meet your own needs without reducing your standard of living or having to resort to spending capital in order to maintain your standard of living. It is important that you keep good records of income and outgoings and gifts given, as your Executors will have to provide evidence of this on your death. This does not really reduce the value of your estate, but it helps at least to minimise the increase.
It is also possible to gift £250 to any one person in a tax year (as long as you haven’t used another exemption on the same person) and in addition to that, you can give gifts in consideration of marriage, for example, a parent can gift £5,000, a grandparent can gift £2,500 and gifts of up to £1,000 can be given from others.
These options are legitimate ways to reduce your estate or at least minimise the increase.
It is important to remember that when you give a gift, it then belongs to the person receiving it and if they later divorce or become bankrupt for example, then those assets that you gave them would form part of their estate during those proceedings. You cannot control the assets once given away.