Death taxes aren’t all bad

Death taxes aren't all bad

Stephen Byers’ suggestion that inheritance tax should be ditched could hardly be more damaging to the chancellor

Gordon Brown has spent the last few years plugging the holes in the tax,
incurring anger across the board.

First we had the spectacularly broad sweep of the pre-owned assets rules.
Those came into effect recently, and we’ve yet to hear any of the debates over
their impact in court, which is something for outsiders to look forward to.

Then, in the most recent budget, it was trusts. Again, the same complaints
were raised that the rules affected far more transactions than they were
intended to.

IHT is complex, and one argument might be that the technicalities are not
worth the bother. But I don’t think it’s unjustified. In fact, it’s hard to see
a society that believes in equality of opportunity not having such a tax.

The suggestion that the middle classes are now being unfairly hit by it due
to house price rises is unconvincing. They haven’t been taxed on the huge
unexpected boom in the value of their properties before, so why not on death?

The debate over IHT certainly deserves an airing. But Brown’s advisers may be
justified in questioning whether Byers, whose grip on technical and business
issues has been tenuous, is the person to start it.

Alex Hawkes is news editor of Accountancy Age

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