What is the Inheritance Tax (IHT) Transferable Nil Rate Band? Who does it apply to?

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This is a freeview 'At a glance' guide to the Transferable Nil Rate Band.

An Inheritance Tax (IHT) transferable Nil Rate Band (NRB) is applicable to deaths on or after 9 October 2007.

At a glance

Each individual subject to UK Inheritance Tax (IHT) has the benefit of a NRB which is currently £325,000.

When one spouse or civil partner dies before the other and part or all of their NRB is not used, the unused NRB may be transferred to the surviving spouse to be added to their own NRB and used on their death. References to spouses here also include civil partners.

  • HMRC need details of the IHT history of the first death to agree any claim made on the second death.
  • If any tax at all was paid on the first death, whether this was the old Estate Duty or Capital Transfer Tax or whether it was IHT, the nil rate band will have been used and the relief will be unavailable.
  • The date of the first death is not relevant in determining whether a claim can be made, so long as the two were married or civil partners at the time, but it can affect the amount available.
  • The amount available for transfer to you as a surviving spouse is a percentage based on the unused NRB at the time of your spouse's death and applied to the amount of the NRB in force when you die. The maximum that can be added to anyone's own NRB is 100% of the NRB for the tax year in which they die (currently £325,000).
  • Civil Partnerships were not recognised in the UK before 2005 so if your partner died before that date their nil rate band cannot be transferred to you.
  • If your spouse died before 1975, some or all of their NRB may have been used even if all their assets were passed to you as their spouse.
  • Specific rules apply where individuals remarry or have previous predeceased spouses. See IHT: Transferable Nil-Rate Band for examples.

Non-UK domiciled individuals

The NRB is available to all individuals; if you are a non-UK domiciled individual and die in the UK with UK assets your spouse may be able to benefit from a transfer of your unused nil rate band.

  • See IHT: Non-domiciled spouse for details of how this works as well as the non-domicile spouse election if this affects you.

Details to keep after the first death

Where there is a transferable nil rate band available following the first death of a member of a couple, records should be kept to support the claim to transfer the unused NRB including but not limited to:

  • A copy of the IHT forms or full written details of the assets in the estate and their values.
  • Death certificate.
  • A copy of the will or a note on how the estate was passed if there was no will.
  • Evidence to support any available reliefs such as Agricultural or Business Property Relief where the relievable assets pass to someone other than you as the surviving spouse.

See IHT: Transferable Nil-Rate Band for a full list of the documents which must be kept.

You should make sure you keep all of these following your spouse's death to assist your family and personal representatives in dealing with your own estate on death.

Will planning and the transferable NRB

It is advisable to review wills that include provisions that rely on the NRB.

See Main Residence Nil-Rate Band for details of the transfer of the additional NRB relating to the family home.

Useful guides on this topic

IHT: Transferable Nil-Rate Band
What is the Transferable Nil-Rate Band? Who does it apply to? How do I claim it?

IHT: Main Residence Nil Rate Band
What is the Main Residence Nil-Rate band? When was it introduced? How does it work? Who can claim it?

IHT: Estate planning checklist
This checklist covers some of the essential planning points that taxpayers should know when planning for their estate and Inheritance Tax (IHT).

Deed of variation
What is a deed of variation? When can a deed of variation be used? What are the requirements for a valid deed of variation?

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