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Understanding the UK Inheritance Tax (IHT) system is crucial for expats, High Net Worth (HNW) individuals, UK property owners, non-domiciled individuals, and those married to non-domiciled spouses. As a financial adviser with extensive experience assisting expats across the Middle East, my goal is to provide a highly detailed, comprehensive guide that delves into UK IHT and offers practical solutions. This definitive blog post will cover the intricacies of UK IHT and serve as a useful resource for expats.

1. Decoding UK Inheritance Tax (IHT)

UK Inheritance Tax (IHT) is a tax levied on the value of a deceased person’s estate, including property, possessions, and financial assets. The tax is calculated based on the total estate value and is applicable if the estate exceeds the tax-free threshold, currently set at £325,000. The tax rate beyond this threshold is 40%. However, there are exemptions and additional allowances available that can reduce the IHT liability.

2. UK Domicile Status and Its Impact on IHT for Expats

A person’s domicile status plays a critical role in determining their UK IHT exposure. Expats holding a UK domicile status are subject to IHT on their worldwide assets. Conversely, expats who have acquired non-domicile (non-dom) status can exclude their non-UK assets from IHT calculations. It is essential for expats to understand their domicile status and plan accordingly. A financial adviser can help assess your domicile status and recommend suitable IHT planning strategies.

3. Additional IHT Allowances and Exemptions

  1. Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB): The RNRB is an additional allowance available to homeowners when passing their main residence to their direct descendants. The RNRB is currently £175,000 per person and is in addition to the existing £325,000 threshold.
  2. Transferable Nil Rate Band: The unused IHT allowance from the first spouse or civil partner to die can be passed on to the surviving spouse or civil partner, effectively doubling the IHT allowance for the surviving spouse.
  3. Tapered Allowance: The RNRB is reduced by £1 for every £2 that the value of the estate exceeds £2 million.
  4. Spouse and Civil Partner Exemption: Transfers between spouses or civil partners who are both UK domiciled are generally exempt from IHT, regardless of the amount.
  5. Charitable Giving: If at least 10% of the estate’s net value is left to charity, the IHT rate on the remaining taxable portion can be reduced to 36%.

4. Calculating Inheritance Tax with Additional Allowances and Exemptions

The process of calculating IHT liability involves incorporating the additional allowances and exemptions available to an individual. A detailed calculation should account for factors such as the RNRB, transferable nil rate band, tapered allowance, spouse exemption, and charitable giving.

Example Calculation:

Assume an individual’s estate is valued at £1 million, which includes a main residence valued at £500,000. The estate is left to their children.

Standard IHT allowance: £325,000 Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB): £175,000 Total allowance: £325,000 + £175,000 = £500,000

Estate value: £1,000,000 Total allowance: £500,000 Taxable estate: £1,000,000 – £500,000 = £500,000

IHT rate: 40% IHT liability: £500,000 x 0.40 = £200,000

In this example, the estate would have an IHT liability of £200,000.

5. Comprehensive IHT Planning Solutions for Expats

  1. Gifting: Expats can make use of annual gifting allowances and exemptions to reduce the value of their estate, thereby minimizing IHT liability.
  2. Trusts: Creating trusts to hold assets can protect them from IHT liabilities and ensure that wealth is distributed according to the individual’s wishes.
  3. Life insurance: Life insurance policies can be utilized to cover potential IHT liabilities, providing financial security for beneficiaries.
  4. Business Property Relief (BPR): Investing in qualifying business assets can benefit from BPR, which can reduce IHT liabilities by up to 100% on qualifying assets.
  5. Pension planning: Maximizing pension contributions is advisable, as pensions are typically exempt from IHT, and can offer a tax-efficient way to pass on wealth.
  6. Offshore investments: Non-doms and expats may consider offshore investments and structures to manage non-UK assets more tax-efficiently.
  7. Tax-efficient wills: Drafting tax-efficient wills ensures that assets are distributed according to one’s wishes while minimizing IHT exposure.

6. IHT Considerations for Property Owners, Non-Dom Planning, and Marriages Involving Non-Doms

  1. Property Owners: Expats with UK property are exposed to IHT, even if they hold non-dom status. Property owners should explore solutions like holding the property through a company or trust to mitigate tax exposure.
  2. Non-Dom Planning: Non-dom individuals must plan diligently to minimize their IHT liability. Options include segregating UK and non-UK assets, utilizing offshore trusts, and considering the remittance basis of taxation.
  3. Marriages Involving Non-Doms: When a UK domiciled individual is married to a non-dom spouse, the spouse exemption is capped at £325,000. However, if the estate is left to a domiciled spouse, there is no limit to the spouse exemption, which means the estate can be passed on without incurring any IHT. The non-dom spouse can also choose to be treated as UK domiciled for IHT purposes to benefit from the unlimited spouse exemption. Couples should carefully evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of this option before making a decision.

7. Non-Dom Allowance and Strategies to Avoid IHT

  1. Non-Dom Allowance: Non-domiciled individuals are entitled to an allowance of £325,000 on their UK assets, similar to UK domiciled individuals. To reduce their IHT liability, non-doms should focus on segregating UK and non-UK assets and utilizing offshore trusts.
  2. AIM Shares: Investing in Alternative Investment Market (AIM) shares can help avoid IHT, as many AIM-listed companies qualify for Business Property Relief (BPR). By holding these shares for at least two years, individuals can achieve up to 100% IHT relief on the investment.
  3. Equity Release: Homeowners can consider equity release schemes, allowing them to access capital tied up in their property while reducing the property’s value for IHT purposes.
  4. Family Investment Companies (FICs): Establishing a FIC is another way to reduce IHT exposure. FICs allow families to pool investments and retain control over assets while facilitating tax-efficient wealth transfer to future generations.
  5. Discounted Gift Trusts: These trusts enable individuals to make a gift into trust while retaining the right to receive regular payments from the trust. The initial gift is discounted for IHT purposes, and the remaining assets in the trust will not be subject to IHT after seven years.

8. Expert Advice from Accountants, Financial Advisers, and Estate Lawyers

Collaborating with experts, including accountants, financial advisers, and estate lawyers, ensures that this guide provides accurate and up-to-date information on UK IHT planning. These experts contribute invaluable insights and strategies to help expats navigate the complex UK IHT landscape, avoid common pitfalls, and protect their financial legacy.


This definitive guide covers the intricacies of the UK IHT system, including additional allowances and exemptions, and provides expert advice and strategies to help expats protect their wealth and provide wealth management advice along with a solid financial foundation for their loved ones.

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of UK Inheritance Tax and the various allowances and solutions available, it’s time to take the next step. Contact a reliable financial adviser today to discuss your individual circumstances and develop an IHT planning strategy tailored to your needs. Don’t let the complexities of the UK IHT system hinder your financial goals – act now and secure your financial legacy for yourself and your loved ones.

About Mike Coady

Mike Coady is an expat expert based in Dubai and is on hand to help with all of the above and more.

Mike is an award-winning money coach and industry leader in the financial sector.

Qualified to UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) standards, a member of the Chartered Insurance Institute, a Fellow of the Institute of Sales Management (FISM), a Fellow of the Association of Professional Sales (F.APS), a Fellow of the Institute of Directors (FIoD) and featured as a highly qualified Financial Adviser in Which Financial Adviser.

To learn how to choose a great financial adviser, download our free guide.

Blog published by Mike Coady.