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Phil Wickenden: Complex IHT regime offers opportunity

iht regimeGiven that we live in such an advanced society, one would hope that certain things would be easier than they are. Think separating two flat pieces of Lego, taking price stickers off things or opening cling film without a fit of wrap rage.

The Office of Tax Simplification is doing its bit to help make things easier. Granted, its review of inheritance tax, with its aim of simplifying the system, will not solve any of the issues above.

But it does provide the only certainty as to what changes in this area might actually look like beyond supposition.

The Resolution Foundation has recommended the current IHT regime is scrapped entirely and there is a move to a lifetime receipts-based tax system. That said, it is felt major reform is fairly unlikely while we live in a perma-state of Brexit uncertainty. The fact there is simply insufficient government resource cannot be overlooked.

Whatever the outcomes, an intergenerational approach to financial planning expands opportunities and defends against asset loss. The one who advises on efficient wealth preservation and transfer, and who involves the whole family in the discussion, has a much greater chance of success. The family is a great referral network.

Estate planning and IHT reduction are important contributors to achieving that outcome. They are complex and thus less likely to be disintermediated. This complexity creates challenges for advisers – but herein lies the opportunity.

Our latest research with advisers and consumers into IHT and estate planning encouragingly reveals the growing stated importance of them to advice propositions and the anticipation of further growth (see charts). Yet engagement is still far lower than it ought to be.

Advisers say that over a quarter (28 per cent) of their core client base should have seriously considered IHT and estate planning but have not yet.

Phil Wickenden is managing director at Cicero Research

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