A recent case illustrates that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will often vigorously challenge potentially low asset valuations for Inheritance Tax (IHT) purposes.
HMRC disputed the probate value of a property, which had been valued by two different valuers at £250,000 at the date of death of the owner in 2005. The problem was that the property had been bought for £268,450 in 2002 and in the intervening period house prices had risen. However, the 2002 purchase took place because the deceased was desperate to live near his daughter and had done a private deal with one of her neighbours to achieve that end.
HMRC proposed that a valuation of £350,000 be adopted for probate purposes and, after considerable negotiations, reduced this to £275,000. There was no further compromise, so the matter ended up in the Upper Tribunal.
The executors of the estate won. The Tribunal considered that HMRC were wrong to take the 2002 valuation as their starting point as there were 2005 valuations to hand, especially as there was considerable evidence that the 2002 deal was not an ‘open market’ purchase.