Inheritance tax is a subject that often raises questions and concerns for individuals and families in the United Kingdom. Understanding the intricacies of this tax is essential for proper estate planning and minimising tax liabilities. One key aspect of inheritance tax is the inheritance tax threshold, which plays a crucial role in determining how much tax may be due on an estate. In this blog post, we will examine the specifics of inheritance tax thresholds in English law, shedding light on how they work and how you can optimise your estate planning to make the most of them.

What Is Inheritance Tax?

Inheritance tax, often referred to as IHT, is a tax levied on the value of an individual’s estate when they pass away. The estate includes assets such as property, investments, cash, and personal belongings. It’s important to note that inheritance tax is generally not payable on gifts made during an individual’s lifetime, provided they survive for at least seven years after making the gift. Additionally, some assets, such as those left to a spouse or civil partner, may be exempt from inheritance tax.

Inheritance Tax Thresholds

The inheritance tax thresholds in England determine the amount of an individual’s estate that can be passed on to beneficiaries tax-free. As 2023-4, there are two main thresholds to consider: the Nil Rate Band and the Residence Nil Rate Band.

  1. Nil Rate Band (NRB): The Nil Rate Band is the basic threshold for inheritance tax. In England, as of 2023-4, this threshold is set at £325,000. Any portion of an estate valued below this threshold is exempt from inheritance tax, and no tax is payable on it.
  2. Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB): The Residence Nil Rate Band is an additional threshold that applies to the value of an individual’s main residence when it is passed on to direct descendants, such as children or grandchildren. As of 2023-4, the RNRB in England is set at £175,000 per person. Like the NRB, any estate value below this threshold is exempt from inheritance tax.

Married couples and civil partners can often benefit from the transferability of these thresholds. This means that if the first spouse or partner passes away and their estate does not use up their entire NRB or RNRB, the unused portion can be transferred to the surviving spouse or partner, effectively doubling the potential tax-free threshold for the second death.

It’s important to note that the inheritance tax thresholds can change over time, so it’s crucial to stay informed about the current rates and allowances, as well as any legislative updates that may affect your estate planning.

Optimising Inheritance Tax Planning

To make the most of the inheritance tax thresholds and minimise the tax liability on your estate, careful planning is essential. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Make Use of Exemptions and Reliefs: Take advantage of the various exemptions and reliefs available under English inheritance tax law. For example, gifts to a spouse or civil partner are generally exempt from inheritance tax, as are gifts to registered charities. Additionally, certain business and agricultural property reliefs may apply in specific situations.
  2. Gifting and Trusts: Consider making gifts during your lifetime to reduce the overall value of your estate. Gifts made more than seven years before your death are usually exempt from inheritance tax. Setting up trusts can also be an effective way to manage and protect your assets for future generations.
  3. Utilise the Residence Nil Rate Band: If you plan to pass on your main residence to your direct descendants, take full advantage of the Residence Nil Rate Band. This can significantly increase the tax-free threshold for your estate, especially for families with valuable homes.
  4. Seek Professional Advice: Inheritance tax planning can be complex, and the rules may change over time. Consulting with a professional inheritance tax advisor who specialises in estate planning can help you navigate the intricacies of the law and develop a tailored plan that meets your goals while minimising tax liabilities.


Inheritance tax thresholds play a pivotal role in determining the tax liability on an individual’s estate. Proper estate planning is essential to make the most of these thresholds and ensure that your assets are passed on to your chosen beneficiaries with minimal tax implications. Staying informed about the current thresholds and seeking professional advice can help you navigate the complexities of English law and secure your financial legacy for future generations.

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