Originally devised as a tax on the super-rich, inheritance tax (IHT) is threatening more and more ordinary households in the UK. Indeed, over the last five years the estimated revenue from this tax has increased by 50% to annually yield £3billion into the HM Revenue & Customs coffers. It seems that in the future death will no longer be a valid reason to not pay tax for the majority of us. The chancellor will be pursuing 40% of your estate over the £300,000 threshold after your demise.
There is no shortage of financial advice on how to mitigate your IHT liability. That is because rising house prices combined with the government's refusal to increase the nil-rate threshold in line with house price inflation means that this pernicious tax is now within the reach of many ordinary, base rate taxpayers: not just the super rich, as originally intended.
Ways to help reduce your liability include reducing the size of your estate by using trusts, although the HMRC has been quick to close the loopholes over the last few years. Under certain conditions you can give your assets away, although if done within seven years of your death, this may ultimately not reduce your tax liability, and there are other complications that may nullify this charitable way of distributing your worldly goods.
Another answer could be life assurance, which provides a tax-free cash sum on death, capable of paying the IHT bill. For those who are married or in a joint civil partnership, taking out a joint-life second death policy would be the solution, as their estate is not subject to IHT on the first death. However, it is essential that this life insurance is written into trust, otherwise it will be taxed as part of the taxable estate - so rather than reducing the tax liability it will increase it.
Part of the planning challenge for this solution is being certain that you will expire before your policy does. There is no point having a sum assured to meet your tax liability if you outlive the policy. As a result, many would consider a whole-of-life life insurance product as the best alternative to the second death policy. This type of UK life insurance product pays out upon death and not after a fixed period. However, premiums tend to be higher with whole-of-life policies and can increase significantly over the period of the insurance.
Inheritance planning is very important and, before taking out any policy, it is important that you compare life insurance products, as the premiums will differ depending upon the cover and the company. In any case, get professional independent financial advice before committing to any life insurance purchase.
Adam Singleton is an online, freelance journalist and keen amateur photographer from Scotland. His interests include travelling and hiking.
Adam Singleton writes on a number of topics on behalf of a digital marketing agency and a variety of clients. As such, this article is to be considered a professional piece with business interests in mind.