Budget 2015 and initial thoughts.

Budget statement in pdf from Inland Revenue

Some of the things I think this means.

Terms:

Although this refers to a “main residence nil rate band” the personal representatives can elect for any property owned and lived in by the deceased to count as the residence for this purpose.  The term is not related to the main residence or Principal Private Residence.  Potentially, each spouse could have a separate private residence, therefore.

The residence nil rate band (which if someone else has not already labelled it thus, I shall call it the “RNRB”) can be transferred to a spouse and remain intact.  This applies no matter when the first death occurs, so long as the second death occurs after the start of the tax year 2017-18.

The RNRB might end up, therefore, also being called the TRNRB when claimed on the death of the second spouse. There will be new additional forms to complete in addition to the IHT402 and the IHT217.  There will need to be new evidential burdens to show that a recipient falls within the class of acceptable beneficiaries called “descendants”.

The NRB as we know and love it applies at the current rate until the tax year 2021-2 commences.  It applies to all transfers whether intervivos or on death.

The RNRB applies only where there is a residential property in which the deceased has resided (or the spouse of the deceased???) and where the “proceeds of sale of that property” or the property itself pass to a linear descendant of the deceased (or of the deceased’s former spouse??).  The bits in brackets are where I am less certain of the detail.  One thing is clear – the definition of what is considered “linear descendants” is different from the standard definition of “issue” or “bloodline” since it includes not only the usual adopted children and children of the bloodline but also step children and foster children.

Things I am not sure about:

I don’t understand quite how you can quantify the foster children – but perhaps it is possible to prove that an individual is a foster child or has been one at any date.  Similarly, step children.  But then again, this gives an allowance for those children, rather than penalising them or giving them an entitlement.

I am not sure about the “proceeds of sale” aspect of things.  The Inland Revenue states that identifying what has been the proceeds of sale of a family home and making sure that there is a credit for this will be something that will be the subject of a consultation paper shortly.  Presumably, there is some paperwork required for Inheritance Tax purposes on the sale of a family home – so where downsizing from any home worth less than £2,400,000 is potentially eligible for this – so as to preserve the relief on this home.  This will be something that all conveyancing solicitors will need to know about as well, since otherwise it would not be something that would be mentioned to the client.  Few clients associate the sale of their home with the need to consider how it fits in with estate planning.

Does this now mean that flexible life interest trusts now need to be altered so as to take account of this potential future relief?  A “FLIT” by which I mean a discretionary trust, subject to a prior life interest.  I think it does.  Because the whole flexibility of these relies on the discretionary trust *not* being an individual or descendant.  Time to review these I think, and adjust expectations and drafting accordingly.

I think the new legislation means that (at least initially) if you are worth £2.4 million or more, then this RNRB is useless to you.

I also think this means that if you are selling up so that you can free up capital to make potentially exempt transfers, then you have to weigh up carefully whether doing so means that you will lose out on the RNRB.  The RNRB *only* applies on death, and does not apply to PETS that become chargeable.  Worst case scenario is that you free up funds, give some away to your children and do not survive the seven years.  When I say “some”, I mean if you give away more than one Nil Rate Band’s worth of gifts.  So – PETs will have to be limited to below £325,000 for each individual donor if they are within 7 years of death, or statistically likely to be so.  Or in other words, there is no such limitation, but without advice on the pros and cons, the decision should not be taken without, for example, more seriously considering term life insurance, in the very least.

 

In conclusion:

Possibilities of legal involvement in people’s affairs seem to have increased.  And in a way that doesn’t seem right – why should the taxpayer be hemmed in at every turn?  Why not just increase the whole of the NRB to £500,000 each – and not have this extra complication?  What about those childless couples who want to leave their money to nieces and nephews?  Why is this budget not making it easier for the rich to pay tax, rather than harder for the middle income people to manage the burden of it?  This extra complexity just means more work for the civil servants, more bad luck for the childless, more work for lawyers, more fees for professional advice.   And the extra complexity is not actually needed – it doesn’t close any major loopholes or planning issues where “clever lawyers/accountants” have been finding “loopholes”.

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Gifts, Tribute and Taxes

In my family, where there are important gifts to be made, gift giving is noted formally, and full notes are kept.  For this purpose, when I’m talking about gifts, I mean a gift of money or items that have a resale value that is relatively substantial – and which has a meaning for Inheritance Tax – since the particular giver (aka donor) is someone who might be expected to have an estate that would suffer inheritance tax on death.

In my own circumstances, where there are children who share one parent, but not both, recording gifts has also been a way of making sure that the pattern of giving is fair.

Fair is a subjective term – of course it is.  Children born earlier may be fully “paid for” by the time a person dies.  Children (and of course grandchildren) born later may not be so.  To keep things fair is a difficult subject.  What is fair to one might not be to another.  What makes judging these things so hard is that usually, no records are kept.

Not in my particular family – largely because my father is very familiar with family disputes and inheritance tax law, having been a succession and tax lawyer for many decades.

Being a person who likes to understand the principle of equity and to practice what he preaches, he has devised a way of making sure that all his children understand the impact of the gifts that have been given over the years and the exemptions that cover each gift, so that in the event of his death, his executors have an easier time of it, and that if there are any disputes (polite or otherwise) between his heirs, at least there are some documents to back up the process.  On the basis that knowledge can give you truth, if not happiness.

If the role of being a child is to learn from a parent, then this is something that I hope to be able to use – in the role of a lawyer learning from another in the same field, I would also like to take this on board. 

And tribute?  That’s the way the family choose to look at an enforced gift – one that has to be made, for social or other purposes.  Like gifts for a wedding…  or gifts on the occasion of an event that is made popular by greetings card manufacturers.  It does have the feel of an individual approaching a tribal leader, laden down with gold and silver, spices and fine goods, to impress or placate.  On reflection, that is rather like the wedding gift table.