Main Residence Additional Inheritance Tax Threshold

5 May

This tax information and impact note affects individuals with direct descendants and personal representatives of deceased persons with total assets above the Inheritance Tax threshold.

George Osborne revealed in July 2015’s Summer Budget that he’d scrap the duty when parents or grandparents pass on a home that is worth up to £1m (£500,000 for singles). This will be phased in gradually between 2017 and 2020.



In recent years, property prices have risen far more quickly than the Inheritance Tax (IHT) nil-rate band. As a result the number of estates subject to IHT has been increasing rapidly.

This is contrary to the aim of the current government that only the wealthiest estates should be subject to IHT. The measures announced in the Summer Budget were widely publicised beforehand and formed part of the Conservative Party manifesto.

It was commonly reported that the new measure would give an effective IHT allowance of £1 million, although we can see that the full allowance of £1 million is not scheduled to come into force until 2020/21.

Policy Objective
This measure will reduce the burden of IHT for most families by making it easier to pass on the family home to direct descendants without a tax charge.


Background to the Measure
The measure was announced at Summer Budget 2015.


Operative Date
The measure will take effect for relevant transfers on death on or after 6 April 2017. It will apply to reduce the tax payable by an estate on death; it will not apply to reduce the tax payable on lifetime transfers that are chargeable as a result of death.

The main residence nil-rate band will be transferable where the second spouse or civil partner of a couple dies on or after 6 April 2017 irrespective of when the first of the couple died.


Current Law
Section 7 of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984 (IHTA) provides for the rates of IHT to be as set out in the table in Schedule 1 to that Act. The current table provides that the nil-rate band is £325,000.

IHT is charged at a rate of 40% on the chargeable value of an estate, above the nil-rate band, after taking into account the value of any chargeable lifetime transfers. The chargeable value is the value after deducting any liabilities, reliefs and exemptions that apply.

Where an estate qualifies for spouse or civil partner exemption, the unused proportion of the nil-rate band when the first of the couple dies can be transferred to the estate of the surviving spouse or civil partner, sections 8A-C IHTA. The nil-rate band can be transferred when the surviving spouse or civil partner dies on or after 9 October 2007, irrespective of when the first of the couple died, so that the nil-rate band can be up to £650,000. There is currently no specific exemption for a residence, or for assets being transferred to children and other direct descendants.

Section 8(3) to Finance Act 2010 provides for the nil-rate band to be frozen at £325,000 up to and including 2014 to 2015. Section 117 and paragraph 2 of Schedule 25 to Finance Act 2014 extends the freeze on the nil-rate band until the end of 2017 to 2018.




How This Works in Practice

  • The current allowance whereby no inheritance tax is charged is on the first £325,000 (per person) of someone’s estate – which is the value of their total assets they leave behind when they die. This remains unchanged. Above the threshold, the charge is 40%.
  • A new tax-free ‘main residence’ band will be introduced from 2017, but it is only valid on a main residence and where the recipient of a home is a direct descendant (classed as children, step-children and grandchildren). It is being phased in gradually, starting at £100,000 from April 2017, rising by £25,000 each year till it reaches £175,000 in 2020.
  • So in 2017 the maximum that can be passed on tax-free is £850,000 for married couples or those in a civil partnership, £425,000 for others. For singles, this is made up of the existing £325,000, plus the extra £100,000. For couples, when the first one dies their allowance is passed to the survivor, so that £425,000 is doubled to £850,000.
  • In 2020, the tax-free amount will rise to £1m for couples, £500,000 for singles, as the main residence allowance rises.
  • Currently, without the ‘main residence’ additional allowance, couples can leave a home worth £650,000 without it attracting inheritance tax (singles £325,000).
  • On properties worth £2 million or more, homeowners will lose £1 of the ‘main residence’ allowance for every £2 of value above £2m. So for a couple, properties worth £2,350,000 or more will get no additional allowance.

2. It can be offset against the value of the owner’s interest in a property, which, at some point, has been occupied by the owner as a residence. It will be available when an owner dies on or after 6 April 2017 and their interest in it is transferred to direct descendants.

3. The transfer must be on death and can be made by will, under intestacy or as a result of the rule of survivorship.

4. In general, the transfer must be outright but certain other transfers into trust on death are permitted: for example, bare trusts, IPDI trusts, and 18-to-25 trusts and trusts for bereaved minors.

5. Special rules will be introduced to protect those who downsize. How this will work is currently subject to consultation.

6. Where the value of the deceased’s estate exceeds £2m (after deducting liabilities but before reliefs and exemptions) the RNRB will be reduced by £1 for every £2 excess value. It is important not to underestimate the “before reliefs” part of this condition. It means you ignore business property relief and agricultural property relief, for example, which could make quite a difference.

7. The £2m threshold and the RNRB are due to increase in line with the CPI from 6 April 2021.

8. Where death occurs after 5 April 2017, the deceased’s RNRB will be set off against any chargeable transfers of a residence before the set off against the standard nil rate band.

9. Any RNRB that is not used on first death can be transferred to a surviving spouse or civil partner. This is the case regardless of whether the deceased could have used their RNRB or not. The amount unused will be applied to uplift the survivor’s RNRB entitlement on second death


What If I Downsize?

There are measures in place to make sure the new proposals do not discourage individuals from downsizing. These measures will only apply to someone who ceases to own their main residence on or after 8 July 2015.

Initially it looks like this would only apply in a very limited number of circumstances. The example given in the Treasury policy paper is that if someone downsized from a house worth £200,000 to a home worth £100,000 they could still benefit from the maximum allowance of £175,000 in 2020/21 if they leave the home and £75,000 of other assets to direct descendants.

Where we could see the rules having more practical relevance is where someone has sold their main residence and moved into a nursing home. In these circumstances, they would be able to leave assets worth up to £175,000 (by 2020/21) to a direct descendant.


Who is likely to be affected
Individuals with direct descendants who have an estate (including a main residence) with total assets above the Inheritance Tax (IHT) threshold (or nil-rate band) of £325,000 and personal representatives of deceased persons.


General description of the measure
This measure introduces an additional nil-rate band when a residence is passed on death to a direct descendant.

This will be:

  • £100,000 in 2017 to 2018
  • £125,000 in 2018 to 2019
  • £150,000 in 2019 to 2020
  • £175,000 in 2020 to 2021

It will then increase in line with Consumer Prices Index (CPI) from 2021 to 2022 onwards.

Any unused nil-rate band will be able to be transferred to a surviving spouse or civil partner.

The additional nil-rate band will also be available when a person downsizes or ceases to own a home on or after 8 July 2015 and assets of an equivalent value, up to the value of the additional nil-rate band, are passed on death to direct descendants.

There will be a tapered withdrawal of the additional nil-rate band for estates with a net value of more than £2 million. This will be at a withdrawal rate of £1 for every £2 over this threshold.

The existing nil-rate band will remain at £325,000 from 2018 to 2019 until the end of 2020 to 2021.




Husband dies in 2020/21 and leaves his share in the residence, valued at £87,500, to his children; balance of his estate to his wife

  • £87,500 of £175,000 RNRB (Residential Nil Rate Band) set off against transfer
  • Extra 50 per cent RNRB to widow for possible set off on her subsequent death
  • Full standard NRB and transferable standard NRB also available
  • Where the first death occurrs before 6 April 2017, both the amount available for carry forward and the RNRB at the time of first death are deemed to be £100,000, thereby ensuring that, in these circumstances, the residence nil-rate band is always increased by 100 per cent on second death unless the estate of the first to die exceeded the taper threshold.
  • This is the case regardless of whether or not the estate of the first to die included a qualifying residential interest and irrespective of what dispositions occurred on their death.


Example 2.

When the first to die dies with an estate of more than £2m, entitlement to the RNRB is tapered away at the rate of £1 for every £2 of excess value. This applies on the first or second death and regardless of when the first death occurred.

Husband dies in 2021/22 with an estate valued at £2.2m

  • Husband leaves the whole estate (including an interest in the main residence) to his wife
  • RNRB on first death is reduced by £100,000 (4/7) or 57.2 per cent
  • Transferable RNRB is 42.8 per cent
  • On the subsequent death of the widow, if she dies with an estate of £1.5m, she can use all of the standard NRB, 100 per cent transferable NRB, full RNRB and 42.8 per cent transferable RNRB
  • If both deaths occur before 6 April 2017, no RNRB is available to offset against the deceased’s estate.
  • If first death occurs before 6 April 2017, the RNRB is available for transfer if the subsequent death occurs after 5 April 2017.

So, quite a lot more to it than first meets the eye – and these are just the fundamentals.


Should I Plan / Should I Take Professional Advice?

There is quite a lot more to this change in legislation than first meets the eye – and these are just the fundamentals detailed above.

There are a few basics you should think about:

  • It’s crucial to make a will
  • Take professional tax advice


Oh and finally, inheritance tax planning is important, but don’t forget, the main thing is that you (or your parents) should have financial security in old age. Don’t sacrifice everything just to plan for someone else’s future. You’ve earned your money, so let it make you comfortable.

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