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The government is set to clamp down on a little-noticed loophole in planned changes to pensions rules that would have allowed homeowners to pass property and other assets to their heirs free of inheritance tax.
Some financial advisers have predicted a rush of people looking to make use of the new rules. Sharp rises in property prices over the past decade, particularly in the south-east, have taken thousands of households over the inheritance tax threshold, currently £263,000.
Under the proposals, all assets that are held in a pension, including residential property, would be exempt from inheritance tax once the pension policyholder turns 75.
But, according to people close to the Inland Revenue, the loophole is to be closed. The changes are expected to reduce the inheritance tax benefits of the new pensions rules substantially. The Revenue on Friday confirmed it was looking at the point and would clarify it through guidance to tax practitioners.
Inheritance tax looks likely to become one of the battlegrounds in the forthcoming election campaign. The Conservatives are examining several ways to reduce the inheritance tax burden for families. Experts say the chancellor may make some inheritance tax concessions in next month's Budget statement.
John Whiting, tax partner at PwC, said: “Even if inheritance tax only affects 5 per cent of estates, the worry factor is much greater and, because of that, inheritance tax is something that may well be seized on in the run-up to the next election.”