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An IHT transferable nil rate band 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 nil rate band which is currently £325,000 (£312,000 to April 2009).

When one spouse or civil partner dies before the other and part or all of their nil rate band (NRB) is not used (usually because all their assets have passed tax free to the surviving spouse), 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 references to 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/civil partners at the time, but it can affect the amount available.
  • The amount available for transfer to you as surviving spouse is a percentage based on the unused NRB (as a proportion of the total NRB) at the time of your spouse's death, which is applied to the amount of the NRB in force when the 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.

Non-domiciled individuals


The NRB is available to all individuals; if a non-domiciled individual dies in the UK with UK assets, any part of the NRB which is unused may be transferred to their spouse

See IHT: non-domiciled spouse for details of the UK 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:

  • A copy of the IHT forms or full written details of the assets in the estate and their values.
  • Death certificate.
  • Marriage or civil partnership certificate.
  • Copy of the grant of representation (‘confirmation’ in Scotland).
  • A copy of the will or a note on how the estate was passed (if there was no will).
  • A copy of any deed of variation or other similar document.
  • Valuations of assets passing under the will/intestacy other than to you as the surviving spouse
  • 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.

You should make sure you keep 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 which rely on the NRB.

See Main Residence Nil Rate Band for details of the transfer of the additional nil rate band relating to the family home.

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