Tax 'quirk' is unfair to elderly

Tax campaigners are calling on the government to correct a tax quirk that it says is unfairly hitting elderly widows and widowers. The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group has highlighted the fact that a small number of older people, whose husband or wife died before March 1972, are being excluded from the 'transferable nil rate band' inheritance tax relief introduced in 2007. This relief allows the inheritance tax allowance of the first person in a couple to die to transfer to the surviving partner, and can effectively double the amount the amount they can pass on tax-free when they die. John Whiting of the LITRG, who is also policy director of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, said: 'In 2007, the government introduced a very good inheritance tax relief. When a widow or widower (or bereaved civil partner) dies, their estate can now not only benefit from their own tax-free band, but also up to a second nil-rate band, depended on the proportion used by the late spouse or civil partner. This change was very welcome and has saved a lot of worries and artificial planning. 'However, this admirable change brought with it some unfairness, one key example concerning a small number of elderly people whose spouses died many years ago. 'Essentially, before March 1972, when a modest spouse exemption was brought in, someone who died and left their property entirely to their surviving spouse was always chargeable to estate duty - the forerunner of modern IHT. 'They used up all of what we today call the nil rate band, which means that, under today's rules, the surviving spouse has no additional nil rate band available on their death.' Whiting added: 'The change needed here is simple, would cost a very small amount and would remove a tarnish from an enlightened and sensible tax measure. Why can't that change be made?'
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