This is an at a glance free view guide to the Main Residence Nil Rate Band. Subscribers see Main Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB).

The main residence nil-rate band (RNRB) was introduced from 6 April 2017.

At a glance

What is the main residence nil rate band?

The RNRB is designed to counter the fact that the nil-rate band (currently £325,000 per individual) has not increased in line with property prices over the years.

  • It is an additional band over and above the standard nil rate band, which applies to qualifying residential interests (QRI) held at death (or where downsizing relief applies, see below).
  • A QRI is a dwelling house that has been the person’s residence at some point.
    • A dwelling house can include e.g. a static caravan or houseboat if it has been used as your residence.
  • It does not need to be your main residence and could be one that has only been used briefly.
  • The RNRB is used in priority to the nil rate band.
  • It is only available on death; it does apply to chargeable lifetime transfers e.g. a transfer to a trust.
  • Only one property can qualify.
    • If there is more than one possible property an election can be made.
  • It only applies when property is left to direct descendants:
    • a direct descendant is a child, grandchild, step-child, foster child and adopted child. Their spouses and widows are also included.

How much is the RNRB and who can use it?

  • The RNRB started at £100,000 in 2017 and increases by £25,000 per year to 20/21 as follows.
2017/18 100,000
2018/19 125,000
2019/20 150,000
2020/21 175,000


  • A married couple (including civil partners) each has their own RNRB giving them as a couple up to £1m of ‘nil rate bands’ to use before IHT applies ((£325,000 + £175,000) x 2)
  • It is "tapered" at a rate of £1 for every £2 of excess if the overall net value of the death estate exceeds £2 million. For 2020/21 onwards it will be tapered away in full if the estate value is £2,350,000 or more.
    • Net value is after deducting liabilities but before any available reliefs and exemptions.

What is the Transferable RNRB?

Married couples and civil partners can transfer any unused RNRB in the same way as they can transfer the normal nil rate band .

  • A claim has to be made within two years of the second death.
  • The house doesn’t have to be the same one they lived in with their deceased spouse: it can be any home provided they lived in it at some stage and it is in their estate when they die.
  • If the first spouse died before 6 April 2017 then 100% is available for transfer.
  • You can use the transferable RNRB of more than one spouse as long as the total received as transfers does not exceed one full RNRB.
  • Tapering will apply if the value of the estate of the first spouse to die is more than £2m.

What if my property is worth less than the RNRB?

The RNRB cannot exceed the value of the property in the estate so the amount available will be limited to the property value.

What if the property is left partly to direct descendants and partly to other family members?

The RNRB is restricted in cases where the property is only partly left to direct descendants.

For example:

John dies in 2020/21. He leaves half his home, worth £300,000 to his son and half to his nephew.

The RNRB in the tax year of John’s death is £175,000.

Only half of the property is left to direct descendants, i.e. £150,000 worth, so the RNRB is £150,000.

If the property was worth £400,000, the half left to his son would be worth £200,000 and the full £175,000 RNRB would be available.

Who else can use the RNRB?

  • Relief is still available if your personal representatives sell the home as part of the estate administration and pass the proceeds onto your children or other descendants.
  • The RNRB does not apply to any lifetime gifts you make, even if you don’t survive seven years.
  • It can apply to a Gift with reservation provided the gift was to a direct descendent.
  • The RNRB can only apply to residences left on trust if there is an interest in possession for a direct descendant; property left on discretionary trust is not eligible even if all beneficiaries are direct descendants.

What if I have downsized my house?

If you sold your home on or after 8 July 2015, but you leave assets of an equivalent value to your children or other direct descendants when you die you can still benefit from the RNRB.

  • The relief is given by calculating a ‘lost’ RNRB, or downsizing addition and adding it to the actual RNRB available on the death estate. See Main Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB) for example calculations.
  • It is capped at the maximum available for the year (e.g. £175,000 in 2020/21).
  • The downsizing addition must be claimed within two years of the end of the month of death.
  • If you downsize more than once on or after 8 July 2015, only one of these can be taken into account for the downsizing addition. Your personal representatives can choose which to use in calculating the downsize addition.

 Planning points

  • If your estate is not expected to significantly exceed £2 million you should consider making gifts before death to reduce your estate. This is one area where deathbed planning can be effective as the limit does not include pre death gifts.
  • If your spouse has predeceased you, your estate includes assets eligible for relief (such as Business Property Relief) and their value will take the total estate over £2 million, a transfer of the assets which are eligible for relief into an interest in possession trust (for your children or grandchildren) before your death, either via the will on the death of your spouse or a gift by you as surviving spouse, will remove the value from your estate on death. This will have the effect of removing the RNRB restriction (as long as it takes the value of your estate below £2 million).

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