Tax reliefs and benefits have to be targeted, in order that the tax advantage is restricted to the class of taxpayers whom Parliament intended should be the recipients. The complex rules sometimes create unexpected outcomes, as can be seen with the residential nil rate band for IHT, and the calculation of statutory maternity pay. In last week’s newsletter we also highlighted a problem with certain online PAYE accounts maintained by HMRC.

IHT nil rate band

The IHT nil rate band (NRB) has been frozen at £325,000 per person since 6 April 2009, and is set to stay at that level until 6 April 2021. However, to meet an election promise to increase the IHT exemption to £1m, a separate residential nil rate band (RNRB) is available to set against the value of the family home for deaths from 6 April 2017.

The RNRB starts at £100,000 per person in 2017, and increases by £25,000 each year to £175,000 in 2020 (coinciding with the next general election). When the RNRB is combined with the NRB of £325,000, the individual has £500,000 of IHT-exempt wealth, or £1m for a married couple.

HMRC has recently published guidance on the RNRB, which is worth reading, as taxpayers could miss out on this relief if they make gifts in the wrong order, or to the wrong people.

The RNRB only applies to a home (or its value) given to one or more direct descendants on death, either under a will, by intestacy, or via a deed of variation. The executors of the estate can sell the home and pass the value to the descendants, and the RNRB still will apply.

If the home is held in a trust, you need to check who the beneficiaries of the trust are, as the home must be treated as part of the deceased’s estate on death to qualify for RNRB. A home caught by the ‘gift with reservation of benefit’ rules (ie the donor lives there after giving it away) will qualify for RNRB, as the home is treated as part of the deceased’s estate although it may be legally owned by another person.

The RNRB does not apply if the home:

  • was given to the relative during the deceased’s life, so is a potential exempt transfer (PET);
  • is transferred into a trust on death to be held until the beneficiaries reach a certain age;
  • is given to someone who is not a direct descendant, such as a niece or god-child;
  • has never been a home of the deceased (eg is an investment property).

There are further complicated rules that apply where the home was sold on or after 8 July 2015 in order to downsize, or for the owner to move into rented property such as a care-home. Please ask one of our IHT experts for advice on this tricky area.