UK Inheritance Tax Bill Tops £3 Billion

14 October 2015

· The average bill for an estate paying inheritance tax is over £170,000 – an annual increase of 3 per cent
· UK inheritance tax receipts exceed £3.05 billion from 17,900 estates
· Half of UK inheritance tax is paid by estates in London and the South East

Estates liable for inheritance tax in the UK in 2012-2013 faced an average bill of more than £170,000 each – an increase of almost £5,000 or three per cent according to new analysis of HMRC data by Prudential1.

The latest publicly available data on tax receipts shows that the 2012-2013 tax year saw inheritance tax paid on 17,900 estates with a total bill of £3.05 billion – a 15 per cent increase on the £2.65 billion total paid in the previous tax year.

The figures do not, however, suggest that an increasing proportion of estates are becoming liable for inheritance tax. HMRC reviewed nearly 280,000 estates in the 2012-2013 tax year. Inheritance tax was paid by six per cent of estates, a figure that remained relatively flat over the course of five years but is much lower than in 2007-2008 when over nine per cent of estates were liable for inheritance tax. 

Prudential’s analysis also confirmed that London and the South East remain the UK’s inheritance tax hotspots – between them they accounted for half of all inheritance tax payments in the 2012-2013 tax year. Of all the estates above the £325,000 threshold2, and therefore liable for inheritance tax, 42 per cent were from London and the South East.

The average inheritance tax bill was also higher in London than anywhere else in the country, with the average amount paid per liable estate totalling almost £236,000 – 38 per cent higher than the national average.

The Prudential analysis also revealed some significant fluctuations across the UK in the average increases in inheritance tax bills paid by eligible estates. Between April 2010 and April 2013 the average bill in Northern Ireland grew by a quarter (26 per cent) and in the North East of England by just over 10 per cent. By contrast, in the same time period the average bills in Scotland fell by almost nine per cent and those in Wales by five per cent.

In a further indication of the skewed distribution across the country of inheritance tax, there were 200 estates liable for the tax in Northern Ireland while four individual counties in South East England each saw more than double that figure – Surrey (970), Hampshire (620), Kent (560) and West Sussex (510).

Les Cameron, a tax specialist at Prudential, said: “As the total amount of inheritance tax paid increases, so does the value of careful tax planning for anyone looking to cascade as much of their wealth to their families as possible.

“Planning for inheritance tax is at its most valuable when it is done early and has become increasingly important with the additional options and complexities brought about by the new rules allowing individuals to pass on pension savings to family members.

“With all this in mind, it is almost never too early for many people to discuss future financial plans for them and their families with a professional financial adviser.”

In the Summer Budget of July 2015 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that from April 2017 individuals will be entitled to a family home allowance in addition to the existing £325,000 inheritance tax allowance. The family home allowance will be phased in and will be up to £1 million for a married couple or civil partnership by the 2020-21 tax year.3

Under the pension freedoms that came into force in April 2015 individuals now have the freedom to pass on their unused defined contribution pension to any nominated beneficiary when they die without paying the 55 per cent tax charge previously applied to pensions passed on at death. If the individual dies before they reach the age of 75, they will be able to give their remaining defined contribution pension to anyone as a lump sum completely tax free, if it is in a drawdown account or unvested.

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