How to maximise your Inheritance Tax allowances through lifetime gifting

Inheritance Tax (IHT) is often perceived as a “voluntary” tax, suggesting that with strategic planning and timely gifting, its impact can be minimized. While it’s challenging to predict the timing of one’s death, utilizing IHT allowances and exemptions for lifetime gifts can significantly reduce the tax burden on your estate. Here’s a guide to making the most of these opportunities.

Regular Payments from Income

Gifts made from your regular income aren’t counted towards your estate for IHT if they don’t affect your ability to cover living expenses. This opens avenues for supporting family members financially, whether through rent assistance, educational fees, or other forms of support, without incurring IHT.

IHT Annual Exemption

Each individual has an annual exemption of £3,000 for gifts that won’t be included in the estate for IHT. Unused exemption from one tax year can roll over to the next, but the current year’s exemption must be utilized first. This means you could gift up to £6,000 without adding to your estate’s taxable value if you didn’t use the exemption in the previous year.

Small Gift Allowance

The small gift allowance permits tax-free gifts of £250 to any number of people annually. However, these gifts cannot be combined with other allowances for the same recipient, ensuring you strategically plan gift distributions.

Wedding and Civil Partnership Gifts

Gift exemptions for weddings or civil partnerships vary by your relationship to the recipient—£5,000 for a child, £2,500 for a grandchild, and £1,000 for anyone else. These can be in addition to other exemptions but not the small gift allowance.

Gifts to Spouses and Civil Partners

Gifts between spouses and civil partners are exempt from IHT, offering a pathway for asset transfer without tax implications.

Other Exempt Gifts

Gifts to charities, political parties, and certain other organisations can also be exempt from IHT, broadening the scope for tax-effective giving.

Practical Application

Making full use of these allowances requires careful planning. Regularly reviewing your financial position to identify surplus income for gifting and keeping detailed records of all gifts made are crucial steps in this process. Additionally, considering the timing of gifts—especially around tax year transitions—can further optimise your tax efficiency.


While the unpredictability of life makes absolute IHT avoidance challenging, proactive use of available allowances and exemptions can substantially reduce the tax liability of your estate. Regular income gifts, alongside strategic use of annual, small gift, and specific occasion allowances, provide a framework for tax-efficient asset distribution during your lifetime. Consulting with a financial advisor can help tailor these strategies to your personal circumstances, ensuring your estate planning is both effective and compliant with current tax laws.


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