The 7-year rule
Most gifts made during a person’s lifetime are not subject to Inheritance Tax at the time of the gift. These lifetime transfers are known as 'potentially exempt transfers' or 'PETs'. These gifts or transfers achieve their potential of becoming exempt if the taxpayer survives for more than 7-years after making the gift. If the taxpayer dies within 3-years of making the gift, then the Inheritance Tax position is as if the gift was made on death. A tapered relief is available if death occurs between 3 and 7 years after the gift is made.
The rules surrounding PETs have resulted in many people wanting to make gifts long before they die. The problem in practice is that they do not want to give up control over the assets concerned.
The effective rates of tax on the excess over the nil rate band are:
- 0 to 3 years before death 40%
- 3 to 4 years before death 32%
- 4 to 5 years before death 24%
- 5 to 6 years before death 16%
- 6 to 7 years before death 8%
- 7 or more years before death 0%
These tapered rates cannot reduce the tax due on a lifetime chargeable transfer below the amount chargeable when the transfer was made and so are of no benefit to a transfer within the nil rate band.
We would strongly recommend that you keep a list of any PETs that you make. It is also important to keep a record of any exemptions that are used as well as details of any regular gifts made from surplus income.