Inheritance Tax - the basics

Not everyone pays Inheritance Tax. It's only due if your estate - including any assets held in trust and gifts made within 7 years of death - is valued over the current Inheritance Tax threshold (£325,000 in 2014 to 15).

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What is Inheritance Tax?

Inheritance Tax is usually paid on an estate when somebody dies. It's also sometimes payable on trusts or gifts made during someone's lifetime. Most estates don't have to pay Inheritance Tax because they're valued at less than the threshold (£325,000 in 2014 to 15). The tax is payable at 40% on the amount over this threshold or 36% if the estate qualifies for a reduced rate as a result of a charitable donation.

Increased threshold for married couples and civil partners

Since October 2007, married couples and registered civil partners can effectively increase the threshold on their estate when the second partner dies - to as much as £650,000 in 2014 to 15. Their executors or personal representatives must transfer the first spouse or civil partner's unused Inheritance Tax threshold or 'nil rate band' to the second spouse or civil partner when they die.

Find out more about transferring an unused Inheritance Tax threshold

Inheritance Tax thresholds

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Who is responsible for paying Inheritance Tax?

Inheritance Tax is payable by different people in different circumstances. Typically, the executor or personal representative pays it using funds from the deceased's estate.

The trustees are usually responsible for paying Inheritance Tax on assets in, or transferred into, a trust. Sometimes people who have received gifts, or who inherit from the deceased, have to pay Inheritance Tax - but this is not common.

Find out more about who pays in different situations in our guides below.

Who pays Inheritance Tax?

Tax if you have inherited money, assets or property

Inheritance Tax and trusts

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Valuing an estate to see if Inheritance Tax is due

To find out if Inheritance Tax is due on an estate, you must first value the estate. This means adding up the value of all the assets in the estate - such as a house, possessions, money and investments - and deducting any debts the deceased may have owed, including household bills and funeral expenses.

An estate also includes the deceased's share of any jointly owned assets and the value of any assets held in trust.

You should also review any gifts that the deceased may have made in their lifetime to see if they are exempt, and if they aren't exempt, include them in the overall value of the estate (see more below).

How to value the estate of someone who has died

See a worked example of calculating Inheritance Tax

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Inheritance Tax exemptions and reliefs

Sometimes, even if your estate is over the threshold, you can pass on assets without having to pay Inheritance Tax. Examples include:

  • Spouse or civil partner exemption. Your estate usually doesn't owe Inheritance Tax on anything you leave to a spouse or civil partner who has their permanent home in the UK - nor on gifts you make to them in your lifetime - even if the amount is over the threshold.
  • Charity exemption. Any gifts you make to a 'qualifying' charity - during your lifetime or in your will - will be exempt from Inheritance Tax. A donation to charity in your will may also reduce the rate that tax is paid at (see more in the link below).
  • Potentially exempt transfers. If you survive for 7 years after making a gift to someone, the gift is generally exempt from Inheritance Tax, no matter what the value.
  • Annual exemption. You can give up to £3,000 away each year, either as a single gift or as several gifts adding up to that amount - you can also use your unused allowance from the previous year but you use the current year's allowance first.
  • Small gift exemption. You can make small gifts of up to £250 to as many individuals as you like tax-free.
  • Wedding and civil partnership gifts. Gifts to someone getting married or registering a civil partnership are exempt up to a certain amount.
  • Business, Woodland, Heritage and Farm Relief. If the deceased owned a business, farm, woodland or National Heritage property, some relief from Inheritance Tax may be available.

Read more about Inheritance Tax exemptions and reliefs

Find out about Inheritance Tax when passing on money or property

Reducing your Inheritance Tax bill by giving to charity

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Deadline for paying Inheritance Tax

In most cases, you must pay Inheritance Tax within 6 months of the end of the month in which the deceased died. After this, interest will be charged on the amount outstanding.

You can pay in yearly instalments over 10 years if the value of the estate is tied up in property such as a house.

The due dates are different if you're paying Inheritance Tax on a trust.

More about Inheritance Tax due dates

Find out how to pay Inheritance Tax in yearly instalments

When and how interest is charged on Inheritance Tax

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Inheritance Tax and probate forms

You have to fill out an Inheritance Tax form as part of the probate process (or confirmation in Scotland) even if no Inheritance Tax is due. Different forms are used depending on where the deceased lived, and whether there is any Inheritance Tax to pay. You must pay some or all of any Inheritance Tax due before you can get a grant of probate (or confirmation).

Read about Inheritance Tax and the probate process

Find the forms you need for probate and Inheritance Tax

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How to pay Inheritance Tax

There are various ways to pay the Inheritance Tax due on an estate, including paying on account or paying in instalments.

How to make an Inheritance Tax payment

How to pay Inheritance Tax in yearly instalments

How to make an Inheritance Tax payment on account

Other ways to fund an Inheritance Tax payment

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More help?

Contact the Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline

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More useful links

What to do about tax and benefits after a death

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