What do probate fees and Making Tax Digital have in common?

The reduced time to complete the Finance Bill process has led to a delay to the Making Tax Digital (MTD) legislation, which is still expected to see quarterly digital tax reporting introduced from April 2018.

While the tax system’s digitisation is widely supported in principle, a pause would be welcome as many professional bodies have highlighted gaps and the lack of detail in the proposed legislation. MTD is expected to be in a further Finance Bill after the general election, meaning it could be better thought out and implemented to the benefit of businesses and individuals, especially the self-employed and landlords with turnover over the VAT threshold who were to implement MTD first.

Another result of the ‘wash-up’, which determines the processes that get finished or delayed, was to remove the reduction in the dividend nil-rate band. Currently £5,000 of dividends can be received, tax-free, by everyone; theproposal was to reduce this threshold to £2,000, which would result in additional income tax of over £1,100 for the highest rate tax payers.

Also welcomed is the stalling of changes to probate fees. Not usually thought of as a tax issue, the increase in probate fees has been labelled ‘a tax on estates’. From May 2017, estates worth over £2m would have seen a £20,000 charge for probate costs to transfer control of assets, including property, money and possessions after death. The fee today is £155. This was to be a sliding scale with estates valued between £50,000 and £300,000 charged £300. As at February 2017, the average value of a UK residential property was £217,000 most likely tipping many estates into the next band, attracting fees of £1,000.

Given the impending election, the Ministry of Justice has announced that there is insufficient time for the statutory instrument introducing the fees to be properly debated and go through Parliament.

While these initiatives will not become law before the election, a new Government could reintroduce them at a later date. We will update you as the picture becomes clearer.

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Lisa Ball

Partner Salisbury +44 (0)1722 431035

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