10 ways to avoid inheritance tax
When you die you may want your estate to pass on to your children but having to pay inheritance tax (IHT) may reduce the amount of your estate that ends up in their pockets. In 2020/21 a total of £5.32bn was paid in inheritance tax to HMRC, just shy of the record £5.36bn paid in 2018/19.
In this article I look at 10 ways you could prevent the taxman from getting his hands on your assets, before your children do, and start inheritance tax planning.
Before we start, it is worth knowing what your potential inheritance tax bill could be. This inheritance tax calculator will quickly work out what your potential IHT bill could be, in the worst-case scenario.
The information below provides an excellent guide to saving inheritance tax, including tips to cut your potential IHT bill. However when it comes to implementation, which actions are best for you and which will have the greatest impact on your IHT bill depends on your circumstances.
At the moment it is possible to request a FREE Inheritance Tax Check* with a tax professional that will not only quantify the size of your potential inheritance tax bill (the average in the UK is £199,000) but it will tell you the exact steps you need to take to reduce your IHT bill. Most importantly of all, there is no obligation on your part to do anything when you request a review. That's why I strongly recommend that all readers take advantage of this free check while it's still available.
The Free Inheritance Tax Check involves a conversation with a local inheritance tax expert, who will share your exact IHT liability and what steps you can take to reduce it. There is NO obligation on your part whatsoever.Request your FREE inheritance tax check*
How to avoid inheritance tax
1. Make a will
Making a will is a major part of estate planning as you can make sure that assets are distributed in line with your wishes. Without a will your assets will be distributed according to intestacy rules and may be liable to inheritance tax (IHT) that could otherwise be avoided. More information on the rules of intestacy can be found here. If you don't have a will in place then this simple tool will quickly tell you how your estate will be divided up if you die. It is imperative to make a will if you are at all concerned about who inherits your assets but also if you want to reduce your potential IHT bill. Don't forget there is no inheritance tax paid on assets inherited between spouses.
There are a number of online companies which offer will writing services. Farewill* is the UK’s number 1 will writer as it allows you to answer a short series of questions before producing a will, checked by experts, which you simply print off and sign. It is perfect for those who have relatively straightforward affairs. If your affairs are complex (maybe you own a business) then Farewill offers a telephone callback* service whereby a will specialist provides guidance and support to produce a will over the phone. Money to the Masses has secured a £10 discount on online wills from Farewill and a 10% discount on wills completed over the phone.
2. Make sure you keep below the inheritance tax threshold
In the tax year 2021/22 the inheritance tax nil-rate band, also known as the inheritance tax threshold, for individuals is £325,000. This nil-rate IHT band is transferable to a spouse or civil partner on death resulting in a total nil-rate band of £650,000 for couples. In the 2015 Summer Budget a new ‘main residence transferable allowance' was announced which gradually increased from £100,000 in 2017 to £175,000 per person by 2020/21 which may allow people to avoid inheritance tax on property. So, for 2021/22, the main residence transferable allowance is £175,000. This sum is in addition to the nil-rate IHT threshold. It means that a married couple or those in a civil partnership could potentially pass on up to £1million free of IHT. More information on the new inheritance tax allowance on property can be found here.
3. Give your assets away
If you give assets away and you survive for at least 7 years then all gifts are free and avoid inheritance tax. If you die within 7 years then inheritance tax will be paid on a reducing scale. You can also give gifts totalling £3,000 each year completely free of IHT. You can also gift £5,000 on the occasion of a child's wedding. I suggest that you download this excellent guide to saving inheritance tax which is the best guide I’ve found on the subject. Once you’ve downloaded it go to page 10 where you will see a complete list of exemptions you can claim to reduce your IHT bill. On page 17 you will also find an excellent explanation on how you can now pass on your home to your family free of inheritance tax.
4. Put assets into a trust
If you place assets within a trust they will not form part of your estate on death and avoid inheritance tax. You could place assets into a trust for the benefit of your children when they reach the age of 18 for example. Page12 of the guide mentioned above outlines how trusts can be used to save tax and keep control of your assets.
5. Put assets into a trust and still get the income
If you place assets into an ‘interest in possession trust' you can still take income from the assets (which is liable to income tax) whilst avoiding inheritance tax on death.
6. Take out life insurance
You can cover any potential liability for IHT by taking out a life insurance policy for the potential inheritance tax bill and placing the policy in a trust to ensure it is paid outside of your estate.
7. Make gifts out of excess income
You can make ‘gifts out of income' free from IHT. For gifts to qualify they must form part of normal expenditure, be made out of income and not reduce your standard of living.
8. Give away assets that are free from Capital Gains Tax
If you have assets that have fallen in value since purchase (property, shares etc.) they could be passed on without attracting Capital Gains Tax (CGT). Any recovery in the value of any assets would accrue in the estate of the recipient and any gain would be free from a potential IHT liability after 7 years.
9. Leave something to charity
Anything left to a charity will be free of any IHT liability. If you leave at least 10% of your total assets to charity then the inheritance tax rate on the remaining assets will be reduced from 40% to 36%.
10. Spend it!
There is little point in living on a tight budget as you grow older and then your beneficiaries get taxed at 40% on some of your assets. If you have worked hard to build up your assets then you should enjoy them to their utmost, maybe a new car or a holiday of a lifetime will add a bit of a spring to your step in retirement.
If all of your wealth is tied up in property, you could consider an equity release scheme such as a lifetime mortgage or home revision scheme. Depending on which option you choose, you will either borrow money against the value of your home or sell part of your home at a reduced market rate while continuing to live in the property.
The process works by reducing the assets you own and in turn increases the debts that count against your estate. The money you receive can be passed onto your future beneficiaries or, of course, you can spend it yourself. As explained in tip number 3 above, you'll need to survive the gift by 7 years to ensure there is no inheritance tax to pay. You can read more in our article What is equity release and how does it work?
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