THE RULES OF INHERITANCE TAX
THE parent to child exemption is now €310,000 with gifts since December 1, 1999, aggregated and taken into account. Benefits from an uncle or aunt or other close relatives are given an exemption of €32,500 and benefits from non-relatives are exempt up to €16,250.
The rate of tax is 33 per cent and the exempt threshold is that prevailing at the date of death.
Usually, the beneficiaries of a deceased person have a choice of the effective date of their inheritance which can be important to avoid surcharges and interest on late payment of the tax. This date is called the valuation date and it can be either the date of death or the date of Grant of Probate. It is only when the Grant of Probate issues that the beneficiaries can treat their entitlements under the will of the deceased as their own. In a complicated estate, the Grant of Probate may not issue for two or three years.
There are a number of reliefs from tax, of which the best known is agricultural relief. The value of farm assets can be reduced by 90 per cent in order to arrive at the taxable value. In order to do so, 80 per cent of the recipient’s assets must be in agricultural property at the valuation date. If one were in doubt of meeting the test, the recipient could, between the date of death and the date of Grant of Probate, replace non-agricultural assets such as cash with land, stock and machinery.
A similar discount of 90 per cent from market value is available for business assets under business relief. This covers most business activities as the term business is widely defined. It does not cover the letting of residential property but does cover farming and forestry where the beneficiaries of these assets does not qualify for agricultural relief due to being unable to meet the 80 per cent test of ownership of such assets.
The next most common relief is known as dwellinghouse relief. It has been tightened up as it was being abused. If a beneficiary had lived with the deceased in a dwellinghouse for at least three years to the date of deceased’s death and the beneficiary of that house does not own another house, then the inheritance is exempt from tax. If the deceased had to leave the house for health reasons in their final three years, this is ignored.
The dwellinghouse exemption is also available for the lifetime gift of a house to a dependent relative of the donor. The recipient must be permanently and totally incapacitated or else aged over 65 years. Here, the donor does not need to live in the house as their private residence. As an example, if a parent purchased a house for a disabled child, it would be an exempt transaction.
Life Assurance Policies held by the insured person can be used by the beneficiaries to pay inheritance tax and will not be part of the estate of the deceased. They are generally referred to as Section 60 policies.
Note that the Inheritance Tax covers benefits on death and gift tax refers to lifetime benefits. Both elements are collectively called Capital Acquisitions Tax. The rates of tax and the exempt thresholds are identical with gifts and inheritances being aggregated to establish if a recipient is over the exempt threshold, i.e. €310,000 parent to child.