Key urges govt to ease tax rules to boost housing market
Ahead of the Spring Budget, the later life advice firm said the Chancellor should acknowledge the role of equity release in supporting first-time buyers and redistributing property wealth by removing the seven-year IHT claw back rule on property related gifting.
It said equity release could play a big part in easing first-time buyer challenges, but some homeowners were put off from gifting money because of the tax claw back.
Currently, people can gift £3,000 a year without affecting IHT but larger amounts must be given seven years before death to avoid the clawback.
Key said removing this would encourage more homeowners to gift their property wealth.
Last year, some £430m was gifted to relatives but Key said this could be higher in a better tax environment. At the same time, the number of first-time buyers fell by 21 per cent annually to an estimated 290,000 in 2023, which would make it the lowest for a decade.
IHT tax receipts increased by £400m to £5.7bn from April to December last year and this is expected to rise to £8.4bn by the 2027/28 tax year.
Will Hale, group director at Key Group, said: “Equity release has an important role to play in making the UK’s housing market work better for first-time buyers and their parents and grandparents. There is a significant opportunity to grow the transfer of property wealth from older generations to younger to support the wider housing market.
“The government has set out plans to turbocharge housebuilding which are very welcome, but the market will also benefit from releasing the wealth tied up in existing properties and that process needs to be made much easier.
“Recognition for the role of equity release in supporting first-time buyers and some much needed changes to IHT gifting rules to make it easier to give money, would be a major boost for everyone in the market now, as well as helping future generations.”
Inheritance tax receipts jump to £6.3bn with stamp duty coming to £12.7bn – HMRC
According to the latest figures from HMRC, annual receipts for 2022 to 2023 grew to £7.1bn, which is equal to 0.28 per cent as a proportion of GDP.
From a stamp duty perspective, overall receipts for April 2023 to January 2024 are £12.7bn, which is £4.1bn down on the same period last year.
Annual receipts for 2022 to 2023 rose £700m year-on-year (YOY) to £19.3bn, which HMRC said could be explained by a “combination of increases in average property prices and the end of the stamp duty holiday”.
HMRC said that the uptick in inheritance tax receipts was “likely due to a combination of the recent rises in asset values and the government’s decision to maintain the inheritance nil rate band thresholds at their 2020 to 2021 levels up to and including 2027 to 2028”.
Helen Morrissey, head of retirement analysis at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that inheritance tax receipts were “on track for another record-breaking year”, with HMRC reporting over £7bn in inheritance tax last year and looking “set to do so again, as long-term house price growth and frozen thresholds drag more families into the net”.
She continued: “However, something of a reprieve could be on the cards should the government move to change inheritance in the upcoming Budget. Rumours were rife the Chancellor was looking to slash the headline rate of inheritance tax to 20 per cent in the run-up to last year’s Autumn Statement, and speculation has started up again.
“The jury is out on whether reducing the main rate is the best way to go though. Inheritance is a hated tax, but it is currently only paid by about four per cent of estates. Cutting the main rate could also be seen as benefiting richer estates who would have larger bills to pay.”
Morrissey continued that increasing the long-standing £325,000 threshold, or combining it with the residential nil rate band, could have a wider impact on smaller estates, especially those who have unintentionally passed the threshold due to house price growth, as they could be “lifted out of paying inheritance tax and spare themselves a nasty surprise bill”.
“It would also help ease the burden that falls disproportionally on single people. Increasing thresholds – for instance, increasing gifting allowances – could also encourage more people to think about how their assets could be used to support their family members during their lifetime,” she added.
Use trusts and gifting to mitigate inheritance tax
Stacey Love, tax and estate planning specialist at Canada Life, commented that inheritance has contributed £146m per week to the treasury, and so far this financial year, receipts are up by around six per cent compared to the same period last year.
“If receipts continue on the current trajectory, we’ll be on track to beat last year’s record. Indeed, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has forecast that HMRC will collect £7.2bn in 2023/24. Of course, all eyes and ears will be on the Spring Budget in a few weeks’ time, to see what, if any, changes are proposed to inheritance tax,” he said.
Love noted that its research showed a quarter of over-55s did not know if their estate would be taxed, and a “complex system plus housing market buoyancy and frozen thresholds could mean more households receiving an unexpected bill from the taxman.
“There are legal means to mitigate paying inheritance tax, though, such as the use of trusts and gifting. Rules around gifting and trusts are nuanced, however, so seeking professional financial advice to help you navigate the system is a good idea,” he said.
Frozen thresholds and high property prices forcing more to pay inheritance tax
Stephen Lowe, group communications director at retirement specialist Just Group, noted that it would see a record total for inheritance tax for a third successive year.
“Frozen thresholds and the increase in property prices over recent years are dragging more households into paying the tax and, while inheritance still only impacts a small proportion of households, the tax bites deep on those estates affected,” he said.
Lowe continued: “We would encourage people to assess the entire value of their estate, including an up-to-date valuation of their property, and familiarise themselves with the inheritance tax thresholds.
“Professional, regulated advice can also help people work out the total value of their estate, calculate how much tax they may be likely to owe and understand what options they have to manage their potential tax liability.”
Inheritance tax revenues set to hit new heights as stamp duty receipts drop – HMRC
The figures revealed that inheritance tax receipts for the period between April and December reached £5.7bn. That’s £400m million higher than the same period in the year before, an eight per cent jump.
Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just Group, said that the Treasury would be able to bank on record breaking Inheritance Tax receipts for a third straight year.
He noted that at the current rates, inheritance tax was on course to bring in around £7.6bn for the Treasury in this financial year, substantially up on the expected revenues of £7.2bn.
He continued: “It’s a useful source of revenue for the government but we may see the Chancellor prioritise political expediency in the coming Spring Budget as we rapidly approach the next General Election.
“Only a small proportion of households are impacted by inheritance tax, but the tax bites deep on those estates affected. Our research suggests there is a low level of understanding around the Inheritance Tax rules and thresholds, with the majority unaware of how much their estate must be worth to incur a tax charge.”
Inheritance tax up but stamp duty falls
Overall stamp taxes for the period of April 2023 to December came to £11.7bn, the HMRC figures revealed. That’s down by £4bn on the same period last year.
Further analysis from Coventry Building Society found that just on stamp duty land tax, homebuyers shelled out £11.8bn across the whole of 2023, down by a whopping 26.7 per cent on the £16.2bn paid in the previous 12 months.
The mutual pointed to the impact of fewer people opting to buy homes last year, in part due to the higher mortgage interest rates in effect. It noted that up to the end of November there had been more than 225,000 fewer transactions compared with the same period in 2022.
Jonathan Stinton, head of intermediary relationships at Coventry Building Society, said that stamp duty was “ripe for change”, criticising the attitude of successive governments towards utilising “temporary measures” rather than more permanent amendments to the levy.
He continued: “Applying any short-term thinking won’t build long-term confidence and stability in the market. We all saw how the Stamp Duty holiday in 2020 and 2021 boosted the market, but the sudden spike in demand led to distortion and the after effects are arguably still lingering now.
“Now is the time for a thorough review of tax on property purchases, taking into consideration some of the issues facing buyers and sellers, which helps support the market in the long term.”
Advisers must educate clients about writing an insurance policy in trust – Wilkinson
First, if the life insurance policy is not placed into trust – or ‘written in trust’ – your client’s beneficiaries are likely to have to pay inheritance tax on it, as proceeds fall outside your client’s estate on death. Second, providing supportive information about writing policies in trust complies with good practice around Consumer Duty requirements – it shows that you are looking for good outcomes for your client. Third, from a purely commercial point of view, having a conversation about placing a policy in trust can lead quite nicely to other potential sales and upselling opportunities.
Let’s consider what a trust actually is, and how it works for insurance policies.
A trust is a legal arrangement that allows the insurance policyholder to transfer their policy out of their estate and ‘gift’ it to a chosen beneficiary. They do this by creating a ‘trust deed’, which outlines who is involved in the trust as well as the terms of the trust. But take heed: policyholders must think carefully about who they choose to leave their policy to, since placing a policy in trust is normally considered an ‘irrevocable act’.
This means that clients can’t go back on their decision once it’s in place. So be aware that putting a policy in trust might not be the right thing for every client.
Protecting beneficiaries from inheritance tax
For clients who have written their life insurance in trust, the money paid out from their policy should not be considered part of their estate.
Therefore, it is not normally liable for inheritance tax. There are exceptions, however. For example, the beneficiary might be liable for an inheritance tax charge on the value of a property on each 10-year anniversary. The standard inheritance tax rate currently stands at 40 per cent. This is charged on the part of your estate above the £325,000 threshold.
Another benefit of placing a policy in trust is that there’s no need to wait for probate. Proceeds are paid out quickly, as long as there is at least one surviving trustee.
This can be particularly important in stressful times, when quick access to funds may be needed for immediate expenses or settling any debts.
Writing a policy in trust supports Consumer Duty
Informing your clients about the pros and cons of writing their insurance policy in trust aligns with ‘putting good outcomes for customers’ at the heart of your approach – a critical aspect of Consumer Duty.
Educating clients on writing a policy in trust is a simple step to add to a broker’s usual advisory process. It offers a well-planned route for ensuring that claim payments are made quickly, to the right people, and for their intended purpose.
An opportunity for new revenue streams
Conversations about trusts can naturally lead to discussions about other financial planning elements such as tax planning and will writing.
In fact, writing policies in trust can result in lower cancellation rates and fewer clawbacks, helping keep brokers’ income streams steady and reliable. And writing a policy in trust can be quite a simple process. Many providers offer online platforms where placing a policy in trust requires only a few additional steps in the overall application process.
In my role as CEO at Access Financial Services, I have witnessed a growing awareness of the benefits of writing policies in trust. More than 70 per cent of our policies are now written in trust. This is significantly higher than the industry average of around 30 to 40 per cent, but it’s arguably a goal that everyone should aim for.
Working this practice into your advisory process will not only enhance your offering, but may also deepen your relationship with your client. Above all, though, it should ensure that you are working hand-in-hand with Consumer Duty guidelines to safeguard your client’s financial future as well as those of their loved ones.
Inheritance Tax receipts hit £5.2bn – HMRC
The £5.2bn figure is £0.4bn higher than the same period last year, according to data released by HMRC.
One of the key reasons for the rise in Inheritance Tax bills was the announcement, in last year’s Autumn Statement, to extend the IHT thresholds until 2028.
These thresholds, which see a 40 per cent tax levied on estates worth more than £325,000 but also allow homeowners to pass on properties worth up to £500,000 without paying IHT, were initially set to be frozen until 2026, but this was extended to 2028.
It means more people are now paying IHT, especially with historic property price rises, however, the overall numbers who pay this tax are still small – only around 4 per cent of deaths result in an IHT charge.
There were widespread rumours that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt would use his Autumn Statement to cut Inheritance Tax (IHT), but this forecast did not come to pass. Whether or not the much-maligned tax is cut closer to a General Election is yet to be seen.
Inheritance Tax has to change
Shaun Moore, tax and financial planning expert at Quilter said: “Inheritance tax receipts are expected to continue rising and we will likely see them beat the previous £7.1bn record before the end of the tax year.
“IHT is a highly emotive tax that can split voters, so we can expect it to continue being a battleground policy for both the Conservatives and Labour as we near the General Election. Though Jeremy Hunt opted not to make changes during his latest statement, we are expecting a budget to take place in March during which it could resurface if the Tories view it as a vote winner. Either way, some form of simplification of the tax is overdue.”
More caught out by IHT
Julia Peake, tax and estate planning specialist at Canada Life, highlighted that more and more people were being caught in the IHT net.
She said: “While speculation around changes to Inheritance Tax was rife in advance of the Autumn Statement, it yielded very little, with no changes in relation to the nil rate bands nor tax rate. With the latest tax data showing that IHT has delivered weekly receipts of £158mn, perhaps a status quo should come as no surprise given how much this tax has grown over the past few years.
“IHT is on course to deliver £9bn for the treasury by 2027/28, with all signs pointing to another record-breaking tax year this year.
“It’s important to remember IHT is not just a tax on the wealthiest in society, as many more estates are being caught in the expanding tax net. People think that they won’t be caught but with both the Standard and Resident nil rate bands remaining frozen until at least April 2028, and compounded by house price inflation, more people are finding that when their house becomes unencumbered by a mortgage it takes up most if not all of their nil rate bands.
“This results in other assets in their estate being hit by IHT. This will remain the case unless rumours of change materialise next year in the Spring Budget, with the unfreezing of thresholds.
More tax receipt rises
Meanwhile, HMRC also reported that income Tax, capital gains tax and National Insurance contribution receipts for April 2023 to November 2023 stood at £280.3bn, which is £12.1bn higher than the same period last year.
PAYE Income Tax and NIC1 receipts for April 2023 to November 2023 came in at £263.5bn, which is £12.1bn higher than the same period last year.
Inheritance tax set for another record year as bills rise to £4.6bn
In total £4.6bn was paid through inheritance tax (IHT) and 2023 is expected to be another record year for the much-discussed tax.
The total amount HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) collected in all taxes was £457.3bn. This is a rise of £23.9bn when compared to the same period in 2022, according to the latest official figures.
It comes the day before the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement, where tax changes are expected to be announced.
Hunt has suggested that tax changes are on their way, and this could be a change to IHT levels, or to income tax and National Insurance.
The data from the latest HMRC figures shows significant growth in taxes in the last year, and this could be used as a justification for tax cuts in his speech tomorrow.
One of the main reasons for the rise in IHT bills was the announcement, in last year’s Autumn Statement, to extend the IHT thresholds until 2028.
These thresholds, which see a 40 per cent tax levied on estates worth more than £325,000 but also allow homeowners to pass on properties worth up to £500,000 without paying IHT, were initially set to be frozen until 2026, but this was extended to 2028.
It means more people are now paying IHT, especially with property price rises, however the overall numbers who pay this tax are still small and there are ways to minimise the amount paid.
‘A conundrum for the government’
Rosie Hooper, chartered financial planner at Quilter, said: “The increasing revenue from inheritance tax has caused a conundrum for the government given how emotive the tax can be and its power to split voters.
“Though a steadily increasing number of families are paying inheritance tax since the Chancellor extended the IHT threshold freeze until April 2028, it still impacts relatively few people and reports that he was considering a cut to the headline rate came under heavy fire as a result. Some even call inheritance tax a voluntary tax due to the number of exemptions available.”
‘On course to hit a record annual total’
Stephen Lowe, group communications director at retirement specialist Just Group, said: “As figures start to become available for the second half of the financial year, it is becoming increasingly clear that IHT is on course to hit a record annual total for the third year in a row.
“At the current rate of tax collection, IHT will raise over £7.8bn for the Treasury, far surpassing the OBR’s estimate for this year of £7.2bn as well as last year’s all-time high of £7.1bn. It’s a useful source of revenue for the government, and if rumours are to be believed, tomorrow’s Autumn Statement will see any potential cut to IHT delayed until the spring.
“Only a very small proportion of households are impacted by IHT, but the tax continues to raise more revenue for the Government, so it bites deep on those estates affected.”
Income tax and National Insurance receipts
The bill for income tax, capital gains tax and National Insurance (NI) hit £247.6bn between April and October this year, a rise of £11.2bn on 2022.
Pay As You Earn (PAYE) income tax and national insurance came to £232.5bn, a rise of £11.8bn when compared to the same period in 2022.
Tax received through self assessment was £14.2bn, a rise of £0.2bn from the same period in 2022.
Hooper added: “This huge growth illustrates why the Chancellor is weighing up tax cuts for tomorrow’s Autumn Statement to boost popularity with the electorate ahead of an election year.
“Though a cut to the headline rate of inheritance tax has been widely rumoured, it seems more likely now that this plan will be shelved in favour of a cut to income tax or NI – a change that would be more welcome given it could make a difference to lower income families, even if only marginal.
“A 1p cut to income tax or national insurance could allow basic rate taxpayers to save a maximum of £377 annually, increasing the disposable income of those households who need it most.”
Stamp duty and IHT tax cuts could be on cards for Autumn Statement
Better-than-expected public finance projections from the Office of Budget Responsibility, the independent watchdog to the Treasury, mean that Hunt’s headroom to fund tax cuts or spending had grown to between £13bn and £15bn, according to a report by the Telegraph.
The Chancellor has ruled out cuts to personal taxes, fearing that such a move would fuel a rise in inflation which is currently 6.7 per cent. However, cuts to inheritance tax and stamp duty are considered to have less of an impact on inflation.
Facing weak growth forecasts, Hunt is said to be rethinking his initial plan to wait until the March 2024 Budget to cut taxes to stimulate the economy. However, reports suggest that if the cuts are deemed unaffordable, changes may still be pushed back to March next year.
The Conservative Party is currently trailing Labour in the polls and making such cuts would be one way to try and improve Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his party’s popularity.
Suggestions of the changes the Chancellor may make include a cut to the headline rate of inheritance tax, currently 40 per cent, and a stamp duty rebate for buyers who improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
A freeze on tax thresholds and soaring property prices have meant more households are being impacted by inheritance tax. According to analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, one in eight families could be dragged into the inheritance tax net if the rules remain unchanged.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Rob Gill of broker Altura Mortgage Finance said that slashing stamp duty “would be a popular, impactful move that would boost the property market and the wider economy, so will surely be hard for the Chancellor to resist.”
Govt considers mortgage guarantee extension and stamp duty cuts – reports
The mortgage guarantee scheme was introduced in 2021 as a way to encourage lenders to re-enter the high loan to value (LTV) market and lend up to 95 per cent.
Much of this lending was withdrawn during the pandemic but the scheme saw the likes of Natwest and HSBC resume at this level.
The scheme was meant to end in December 2022 but in last year’s Autumn Budget it was announced that it would be extended by a year.
Some lenders have since withdrawn from the scheme and are now lending independently.
The most recent figures showed that since its launch, 37,376 mortgages had been completed through the scheme and 86 per cent of purchases were made by first-time buyers. The total value of mortgages provided through the scheme amounts to £7bn.
Ben Thompson, deputy CEO of Mortgage Advice Bureau, said: “It’s been a really challenging time for first-time buyers to get the keys in their hands. Economic volatility has seen potential buyers battle high inflation, pushing prices up and limiting the amount they can save. Meanwhile, the higher interest rate environment has lowered the amount they can borrow, meaning bigger deposits are needed.
“The government is right to look at support for those taking their first steps on the property market in the upcoming Autumn Statement, but extending the mortgage guarantee scheme is just one possible route. Other options on the table are a review of ISA products to support saving, or reforms to the existing products that savers are utilising.”
Stamp duty changes
It has also been reported that the government is planning a stamp duty cut.
The Times said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt were looking at reducing stamp duty or getting rid of inheritance tax.
The Treasury declined to comment when contacted by Mortgage Solutions.
The Autumn Statement will take place on 22 November.
Stamp duty receipts pass £1bn in September – HMRC
Figures from HMRC revealed that homebuyers have paid £8.6bn in stamp duty so far this year.
This was lower than the £12.07bn intake over the same period last year.
From April, the start of the tax year, overall receipts for stamp tax amounted to £7.7bn which was £3bn lower than the previous year.
HMRC said the drop in intake was driven by lower transaction numbers and the lower stamp duty threshold introduced in September last year.
Until March 2025, the stamp duty threshold is £250,000.
Reform to help downsizers
Coventry Building Society has called to a reform of stamp duty following the news that homebuyers paid more than £1bn in the tax so far this year.
The mutual said the current system gave first-time buyers “one time support” but did not help people looking to downsize. It said this could instead deter downsizers meaning the number of homes available for larger families would be impacted.
The current threshold of £250,000 means the tax on an average priced home in England is £2,980. However, when this drops back down to £125,000 from March 2025, Coventry Building Society said this would rise to £5,480.
Analysis conducted by the mutual using Census data revealed there were around 24.5 million spare bedrooms in homes across England, suggesting that people were living in properties that did not fit their needs.
Jonathan Stinton, head of intermediary relationships at Coventry Building Society, said: “There are enough spare bedrooms in England to house every person in London nearly three times over. With at least 24 million spare bedrooms across the country, there needs to be more of an incentive to downsize.
“Stamp duty is an unavoidable upfront cost, which could amount to tens of thousands and thousands of pounds – it’s no surprise potential downsizers could be deterred by the thought of paying a hefty bill, along with the other associated costs, to ultimately end up with something less valuable. There could be many people who feel it just doesn’t make financial sense to downsize.”
Stinton added: “It’s only going to get worse in 17 months’ time, when the stamp duty thresholds change again and the bill on an average priced home jumps by £2,500. It’s clear that a long-term solution needs to be established, one which aims to support buyers who need to move both up and down the ladder.”
IHT – a political conundrum
For the period covering April to September, inheritance tax (IHT) intake totalled £3.9bn, which was £400m higher than the same period last year.
Laura Hayward, tax partner at Evelyn Partners, said the Treasury would be “buoyed by the news that IHT receipts have shown yet another year-on-year increase”.
She added: “IHT receipts really are the gift that keeps on giving at a time when the Treasury needs to do all it can to bolster its coffers.”
Hayward continued: “The prospect of abolishing IHT has been bounced around as an idea for a Conservative election manifesto pledge and while the Chancellor has been playing down the prospect of imminent tax cuts, it’s not impossible that he could pull a small IHT rabbit out of the hat at the autumn statement, with something like a raising of the nil-rate band.
“An immediate concern for many families is that more and more are being dragged into paying IHT by stealth as a result of number of number of factors, including allowances being frozen until at least 2028 and inflationary growth of asset values.”
The nil rate band will be frozen at £325,000 until at least April 2028.
Rosie Hooper, chartered financial planner at Quilter, said: “This shines a light on why both political parties are currently making IHT a battleground policy in the run up to an election next year.
“This increasing revenue causes a conundrum for the government as IHT is an emotive tax that can split voters.”
She said the extension of the threshold freeze until April 2028 was likely to “rake in record amounts by stealth in the meantime”.
Hooper added: “The problem lies in the fact that higher property prices have upped the number of households falling in the scope of IHT, and while growth has slowed in the housing market, we are still yet to see a significant drop in prices. The value of the average UK home now sits at almost £291,000 in August 2023 with that average much higher in the south of England.
“Frozen IHT thresholds form part of a broader fiscal drag strategy employed by this government, which has also frozen income tax thresholds, capital gains tax allowances, and dividend allowances in order to boost revenues. There is no doubt that IHT needs thoughtful reform but either political party needs to ensure that they do not create unintended consequences.”
‘The call for removing inheritance is because it is fundamentally an unfair tax’ ‒ Star Letter 29/09/2023
This week’s first comments come in response to the article: Brokers rage over ‘idiotic’, ‘irresponsible’ and ‘economically illiterate’ inheritance tax plans ‒ analysis
Arron said: “The suggestion is only four per cent pay inheritance tax, so one might think only a few are affected, but maybe two to three times as many employ schemes to avoid it. The four per cent are those who fail to get advice, as theoretically everyone can avoid inheritance tax.
“The limits were previously reformed to do away with gifts and trusts to help those in the intermediate stage avoid paying tax. Notwithstanding, the call for removing inheritance is because it is fundamentally an unfair tax, as one pays tax on their assets when accumulating them and a further 40 per cent on death.
“And removal may well encourage the world’s wealthy to move to the UK for which it should be noted the top 10 per cent of earners (those on £50k+) pay 90 per cent of all income tax. The worse off will be IFAs, who will lose a source of income.”
John Yerou added: “I can’t believe some of the comments in this article from brokers. First of all, most of the super wealthy avoid inheritance because they can afford advice from tax specialists utilising trust and other clever investment vehicles/schemes.
“In actual fact, the people that are affected the most by inheritance tax are the middle classes, not the rich/wealthy. But then again, it depends on your definition of wealthy.”
He continued: “There are many countries around the world that have scrapped inheritance tax who have thriving economies with the largest middle class population. Take Singapore and Cyprus, for example. If inheritance tax is removed, our children and grandchildren can afford to buy a property rather than renting. Why shouldn’t our children and grandchildren benefit from our hard earned estate?”
Government needs to make housing ‘senior post’
This week’s last comment is in response to: Lower base rate expectations will restore the property market – Bloomberg Intelligence
Michelle Lawson said: “Couldn’t agree more with this, however until the government make housing a senior post and a proper effort to reform as part of their policy and agenda, we are stuck in the quicksand.”
The comments here are from our readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Mortgage Solutions and Specialist Lending Solutions.