Inheritance tax

Inheritance Tax (IHT) rate bands and exemptions area as follows:

Transfers on or within seven years before death
  2015/16 2014/15
Standard exemption £325,000 (1) £325,000
Combined threshold maximum for married couples and civil partners £650,000 £650,000
Rate of tax on balance* 40% 40%
Chargeable lifetime transfers 20% 20%
Reduced rate* 36% 36%

(1) The standard exemption is to remain unchanged until April 2021.

It is possible to transfer unused nil-rate band allowances between spouses or civil partners. A claim may be made to utilise any unused nil rate band from the deceased spouse or civil partner's estate.

The amount of the nil rate-band potentially available for transfer will be based on the proportion of the nil-rate band unused when the first spouse or civil partner died. If on the first death the chargeable estate is £162,500 and the nil-rate band is £325,000, then 50% of the original nil-rate band is unused. If the nil rate band when the surviving spouse dies is £325,000, then that would be increased by 50% to £487,500.

All lifetime transfers not covered by exemptions and made within seven years of death will be added back into the estate for the purpose of calculating the tax payable. This may then be reduced by taper relief.

Charge on gifts within 7 years of death
Years before death 0-3 3-4 4-5 5-6 6-7
Tax reduced by 0% 20% 40% 60% 80%


Main reliefs
Normal expenditure out of income Exempt
Business property:
Business or interest therein 100%
Qualifying shareholders in unquoted* companies 100%
Land, buildings, machinery, or plant used
by transferor's controlled company or partnership
Agricultural property 50% or 100%
*Unquoted companies include those listed on AIM and ISDX

Main exemptions

  1. Most transfers between spouses and civil partners.
  2. The first £3,000 of lifetime transfers in any tax year plus any unused balance from previous year.
  3. Gifts of up to but not exceeding £250 p.a. to any number of persons.
  4. Gifts in consideration of marriage or civil partnership: up to £5,000 by a parent, up to £2,500 by a grandparent, or up to £1,000 by any other person.
  5. Gifts made out of income that form part of normal expenditure and do not reduce the standard of living.
  6. Gifts to charities, whether made during lifetime or on death.
  7. Gifts to qualifying political parties
  8. A reduced rate of 36% applies where 10% or more of the net estate is left to charity.

Beyond 2015/16

An additional nil-rate band is to be introduced when a residence is passed on death to direct descendants.

The additional nil-rate bands are:

  1 spouse 2 spouse
2017/18 £100,000 £200,000
2018/19 £125,000 £250,000
2019/20 £150,000 £300,000
2020/21 £175,000 £350,000

Any unused nil-rate band will be transferred to a surviving spouse or civil partner. When added to the £650,000 existing nil-rate band (2 x £325,000) this could provide a total nil-rate band of £1 million for a married couple or civil partners.

Did you know?

The Treasury is expecting to raise £4.2 billion (2014/15 - £3.8 billion) from inheritance tax.