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Brown is splitting heirs with IHT claim

Surprises were unlikely in a pre-election Budget and were not forthcoming.

On the subject of inheritance tax, the first piece of news is that the nil-rate band will increase in easy to remember stages over the next three years from the current 2004/05 limit of £263,000 to £275,000 then £285,000 and finally £300,000 in 2007/08.

This is welcome and in his speech Gordon Brown took the opportunity to mention that 94 per cent of estates are expected to pay no IHT.

However, he overlooked the fact that a major reason for this is that the inter-spouse exemption generally means that no tax is paid on the death of the first of a married couple to die.

This concentrates the tax on the death of the second partner so the real incidence of IHT is much higher than Mr Brown would have us believe.

Financial planning to mitigate this burden continues to be important.

The second major announcement affecting IHT is that same-sex couples in civil partnerships will be taxed as married couples from December 5. This will open up major planning opportunities based on the IHT and CGT inter-spouse exemptions and will cause a flurry of activity to equalise estates where necessary, review wills and embark on lifetime planning activity where appropriate.

Overall it was a quiet Budget but with plenty of scope for ongoing tax planning activity.

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