Category: Inheritance Tax

If you’ve read anything about property and tax, you’ll probably have heard the terms ‘nominating your main residence’ and ‘flipping’. This blog takes you exactly what these terms mean and how and when they apply.

Private residence relief shelters a gain on the sale of a residence from capital gains tax while the property has been the owner’s only or main residence. Where a property has been an only or main residence at some point, the final period of ownership (currently 18 months but reducing to nine months from 6 April 2020) is also exempt from capital gains tax.

Only one main residence at a time

As the name suggests, the relief is only available in respect of the only or main residence. Thus, where a person has more than one home, only one of those homes can be the ‘main residence’ at any given time.

However, as long as certain conditions are met, the taxpayer is free to choose which property is classed as the ‘main’ residence for capital gains tax purposes – it does not have to be the one in which the owner spends the majority of his or her time.

Only one main residence per couple

A couple who are married or in a civil partnership and who are not separated can only have one main residence between them.

Property must be a residence

Only properties that are lived in as a home can be a ‘main residence’ – a property which is let out can’t be a main residence while it is let.

Making an election

Where a person has only one residence, that residence is their only or main residence. Where they acquire a second residence, they have a period of two years to nominate which residence is the main residence for capital gains tax purposes. Where residences are acquired or sold, the clock starts again from the date on which the particular combination of residences changes, and the taxpayer then has another two years in which to elect which residence is the main residence.

The election should be made in writing to HMRC. The letter should include the full address of the property being nominated as the main residence and should be signed by all owners of the property.

No election made

In the absence of an election, the property which is the main residence will be determined as a question of fact and will be the property in which the person lives in as their main home. For example, if a couple has a family home and a holiday home, in the absence of an election, the family home will be treated as the main residence.

Advantages of flipping

There are a number of advantages to a property being the main residence at some point in the period of ownership as not only is any gain while the property is the only or main residence exempt from capital gains tax; the final period of ownership is also exempt. Where the property is let, occupying the property as a main residence at some point may open up the option of lettings relief (although it should be noted that the availability of lettings relief is to be seriously curtailed from April 2020).

Once an election has been made to nominate a property as a main residence, this can be varied any number of times (‘flipping’). This can be very useful from a tax planning perspective, for example, occupying a property as a main residence after it has been let but before it is sold can shelter some of the gain. Flipping properties and making use of the capital gains tax annual exempt amount to shelter any gain that falls into charge when the property is not the main residence can be beneficial in reducing the tax bill.

Partner note: TCGA 1992, s. 222

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Today’s blog explains how Britain’s most hated tax – inheritance tax – works for married couples and civil partners.

Inheritance tax and spouses and civil partners

Special rules apply for inheritance tax purposes to married couples and civil partners. To ensure valuable tax reliefs are not lost, it is beneficial to consider the combined position, rather than dealing with each individual separately. Married couples and civil partners benefit from exemptions that are not available to unmarried couples.

Inter-spouse exemption

The main inheritance tax benefit of being married or in a civil partnership is the inter-spouse exemption. Transfers between married couples and civil partners are not subject to inheritance tax. This applies both to lifetime transfers and to those made on death.

The inter-spouse exemption makes it possible for the first spouse or civil partner to die to leave their entire estate to their partner without triggering an IHT liability, regardless of whether it exceeds the nil rate band.

Transferable nil rate band

The proportion of the nil rate band that is unused on the death of the first spouse or civil partner can be used by the surviving partner on his or her death. This makes tax planning easier and there is no panic about each spouse using their own nil rate band. If the entire estate is left to the spouse on the first death, on the death of the surviving spouse or civil partner, there will be two nil rate bands to play with.

If the first spouse or civil partner to die has used some of their nil rate band, for example, to leave part of their estate to their children, the surviving spouse or civil partner can utilise the remaining portion. It should be noticed it is the unused percentage that is transferred, rather than the absolute amount unused at the time of the first death – this provides an automatic uplift for increases in the nil rate band.

The nil rate band is currently £325,000.

Residence nil rate band

The residence nil rate band (RNRB) is an additional nil rate band which is available where a main residence is left to a direct descendant. It is set at £150,000 for 2019/20, and will increase to £175,000 for 2020/21. The RNRB is reduced by £1 for every £2 by which the value of the estate exceeds £2 million.

As with the nil rate band, the unused proportion of the RNRB can be transferred to the surviving spouse.

Example

George and Maud have been married for over 50 years. Maud died in 2017 leaving £32,500 to each of her two children. The remainder of her estate, including her share of the family home, was left to her husband George.

George dies in July 2019. At the time of his death, his estate was worth £780,000 and included the family home, valued at £550,000, which was left equally to the couple’s children, Paul and Joanna.

At the time of her death Maud had used up £65,000 of her nil rate band. The nil rate band at the time of her death was £325,000. The transfer to George was covered by the inter-spouse exemption and was free from inheritance tax. Maud has used up £65,000 of her nil rate band (20%), leaving 80% unused. She has not used her RNRB band as she left her share of her main residence to George.

On George’s death, the executors can claim the unused portion of Maud’s nil rate band and RBRB. The nil rate bands available to George are as follows:

Nil rate bands £
George’s nil rate band 325,000
George’s RNRB 150,000
Unused portion of Maud’s nil rate band (80% of £325,000) 260,000
Unused proportion of Maud’s RNRB (100% of £150,000) 150,000
Total £885,000

As George’s estate on death is less than the available nil rate bands, no inheritance tax is payable.

Partner note: IHTA 1984, ss. 8A, 18.

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Give to charity to reduce your inheritance tax bill

Making gifts to charity can be an effective way to reduce the amount of inheritance tax (IHT) payable on your estate. Charitable gifts can work to reduce the IHT payable in two ways:

  • reducing the value of the net estate chargeable to IHT; or
  • where the gifts to charity are worth at least 10% of the net estate at death, reducing the rate at which inheritance tax is payable.

Lifetime gifts and bequests on death made to qualifying charities and registered housing associations are exempt from inheritance tax, provided that the gift was made outright.

Qualifying charities

A qualifying charity is one that meets the following conditions:

  • it is a charity that is established in the EU or other specified country;
  • it meets the definition of a charity under the law of England and Wales;
  • it is regulated in the country of establishment, if that is a requirement of that country;
  • its managers are fit and proper persons to be managers of the charity.

HMRC assumes that people appointed by charities are fit and proper persons unless they hold information to show otherwise.

Reducing the net estate

Where a gift is made to charity, the net estate is reduced by the amount of the gift. This can be effective in reducing the amount of inheritance tax payable where the value of the estate exceeds the nil rate band (currently £325,000), plus the residence nil rate band, where available.

The gift to charity reduces the net value of the estate.

Example

Elsie died on 1 December 2018 leaving an estate worth £475,000. She had never married and had no children. In her will she left £5,000 to a qualifying charity, and the balance of her estate to her niece Susan.

Her total estate of £475,000 is reduced by the charitable gift to £470,000. After deducting her nil rate band of £325,000, her taxable estate is £145,000 (on which IHT of £58,000 (£145,000 @ 40%) is payable. The charitable gift reduced the IHT payable on her estate by £2,000 (£5,000 @ 40%).

A reduced rate of IHT

Where the charitable gift is at least 10% of the net estate, the rate of inheritance tax is reduced from 40% to 36%. The net estate is the value of the estate after deducting any debts, liabilities, reliefs and exemptions and the nil rate band and residence nil rate band, as appropriate.

Example

Alfred died on 20 October 2018. He left an estate of £700,000. He had never married and had no children. In his will he left £40,000 to a qualifying charity, with the balance of his estate split equally between his three nephews.

Total estate £700,000
Less: qualifying donation to charity (£40,000)
  £660,000
Less: nil rate band (£325,000)
Taxable estate £335,000

The value of the estate in excess of the nil rate band is £375,000 (£700,000 – £325,000). This is the baseline amount. The qualifying donation to charity of £40,000 is more than 10% of this amount. Thus, the rate of inheritance tax on the taxable estate is reduced from 40% to 36%.

Consequently, the inheritance tax payable on Alfred’s estate is £120,600 (£335,000 @ 36%).

Complications

Where the residue of the estate is partially exempt, for example if it left to a surviving spouse or to a charity, and the Will contains other legacies are left free of tax, it is necessary to gross up such legacies when testing whether the 10% test is met. HMRC produce a calculator which can be used to check whether the test is met. It is available on the Gov.uk website at www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax-reduced-rate-calculator.

Year-end tax planning tips

As the end of the 2018/19 tax year approaches, it is worthwhile taking time for some last-minute tax planning. Here are some simple tips that may save you money.

  1. Preserve your personal allowance: the personal allowance is reduced by £1 for every £2 by which income exceeds £100,000. For 2018/19, the personal tax allowance is £11,850, meaning that it is lost entirely once income exceeds £123,700. Where income falls between £100,000 and £123,700, the effect of the taper means that the marginal rate of tax is a whopping 60%. Where income is over £100,000, consider making pension contributions or charitable donations to reduce income and preserve the personal allowance. Where this is an option, consider also deferring income until after 6 April 2019 to reduce 2018/19 income.
  2. Claim the marriage allowance: the marriage allowance can save a couple tax of £238 in 2018/19. Where an individual is unable to utilise their personal allowance, they can make use of the marriage allowance to transfer 10% of their personal allowance (rounded up to the nearest £10) to their spouse or civil partner, as long as neither pay tax at the higher or additional rate. The marriage allowance must be claimed.
  3. Pay dividends to use up the dividend allowance: family and personal companies with sufficient retained profits should consider paying dividends to shareholders who have not yet used up their dividend allowance for 2018/19. The dividend allowance is set at £2,000 and is available to all individuals, regardless of the rate at which they pay tax. The use of an alphabet share structure enables individuals to tailor dividend payments according to the individual’s circumstances.
  4. Make pension contributions: tax relieved pension contributions can be made up to 100% of earnings, capped at the level of the annual allowance. The annual allowance is set at £40,000 for 2018/19 (subject to the reduction for high earners). Where the annual allowance is not used up in year, it can be carried forward for up to three years.
  5. Transfer income-earning assets to a spouse or civil partner: where one spouse or civil partner has unused personal allowances or has not fully utilised their basic rate band, considering transferring income earning assets into their name to reduce the combined tax liability (but non-tax considerations such as loss of ownership should be taken into account).
  6. Put assets in joint name prior to sale: spouses and civil partners can transfer assets between them at a value that gives rise to neither a gain nor a loss. This can be useful prior to selling an asset which will realise a gain in order to take advantage of both partners’ annual exempt amount for capital gains tax purposes.
  7. Make gifts for inheritance tax purposes: individuals have an annual exemption for inheritance tax of £3,000, allowing them to make gifts free of inheritance tax each year. Where the allowance is not used, it can be carried forward to the next year, but is then lost.

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Make the most of your allowances

The tax system contains a number of allowances which enable individuals to enjoy income and gains tax free. In seeking to maximise your tax-free income, it makes sense to take advantage of available allowances. The following are a selection of some of the allowances on offer.
Personal allowance
Individuals are entitled to a personal allowance each year, set at £11,850 for 2018/19, rising to £12,500 for 2019/20. However, not everyone can benefit from the allowance – once income reaches £100,000 it is reduced by £1 for every £2 by which income exceeds more than £100,000 until it is fully abated. Reducing income below £100,000 will help preserve the allowance.
The personal allowance is lost if it is not used in the tax year – it cannot be carried forward (although in certain circumstances it is possible to transfer 10% to a spouse or civil partner). To prevent the allowance being wasted, various steps can be taken depending on personal circumstances, including:
• paying dividends to use up both the dividend allowance and any unused personal allowance;
• transferring income earning assets from a spouse to utilise the unused allowance;
• paying a bonus from a family or personal company;
• accelerating income so that it is received before the end of the tax year.
Marriage allowance
The marriage allowance can be beneficial to couples on lower incomes, particularly if one spouse or civil partner does not work. The marriage allowance allows one spouse or civil partner to transfer 10% of their personal allowance (as rounded up to the nearest £10) to their spouse or civil partner, as long as the recipient is not a higher or additional rate taxpayer. The marriage allowance is set at £1190 for 2018/19 and £1250 for 2019/20, saving couples tax of, respectively, £238 and £250. The allowance must be claimed: see www.gov.uk/apply-marriage-allowance.
Trading allowances
Individuals are able to earn income from self-employment of up to £1,000 tax-free and without the need to declare it to HMRC. Where income exceeds £1,000, the allowance can be claimed as a deduction from income in working out the taxable profit, rather than deducting actual costs. Where allowable expenses are less than £1,000, claiming the treading allowance instead will be beneficial.
Property allowance
A similar allowance exists for property income, allowing individuals to receive property income of up to £1,000 tax-free without the need to tell HMRC. Where property income is more than £1,000, the individual can deduct this rather than actual costs when computing profits for the property rental business if this is more beneficial.
Rent-a-room
The rent-a-room scheme allows individuals to earn up to £7,500 tax-free from letting a furnished room in their own home. The limit is halved where two or more people receive the income.
Savings allowance
Basic rate taxpayers are entitled to a savings allowance of £1,000, while higher rate taxpayers benefit from a savings allowance of £500. Additional rate taxpayers do not get a savings allowance. ISAs provide the opportunity to earn further savings income tax free.
Dividend allowance
All taxpayers regardless of the rate at which they pay tax are entitled to a dividend allowance, set at £2000 for both 2018/19 and 2019/20. This can be useful in extracting profits from a family company in a tax-efficient manner.
Capital gains tax annual exempt amount
Individuals can also realise tax-free capital gains up to the exempt amount each year – set at £11,700 for 2018/19 and at £12,000 for 2019/20. Spouses and civil partners have their own annual exempt amount. Time sales of assets to make best use of the annual exemption.

The above is only a small selection of the allowances available.

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