Inheritance Tax and Family Businesses

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Family businesses are the backbone of the economy, contributing significantly to employment and economic growth. However, the continuity and succession of family businesses can be impacted by various factors, including inheritance tax (IHT). In the United Kingdom, IHT is a tax levied on the transfer of wealth from one generation to another, and it can have substantial implications for family businesses. In this article, we will explore the specific challenges faced by family businesses in relation to inheritance tax and discuss tax-efficient measures that can be taken to safeguard the business for future generations.

  1. Valuing the Business

One of the key challenges faced by family businesses is accurately valuing the business for inheritance tax purposes. The value of the business is a crucial factor in determining the inheritance tax liability. Valuation methods can vary depending on the nature of the business, its assets, and its profitability. Professional valuers and tax advisors with expertise in business valuation should be consulted to ensure an accurate assessment of the business’s worth. By obtaining a realistic valuation, families can better plan for the potential tax liability and implement appropriate tax mitigation strategies.

  1. Utilizing Business Relief

Business relief (previously known as business property relief) is a valuable tax relief designed to support family businesses and encourage entrepreneurship. It allows eligible business assets to be partially or fully exempt from inheritance tax. Qualifying assets can include shares in unlisted companies, partnerships, and certain types of business property. The level of relief depends on various factors, such as the length of ownership and the nature of the business. By utilizing business relief, family businesses can significantly reduce their inheritance tax liability, ensuring that more of the business’s value can be preserved and passed on to the next generation.

  1. Succession Planning

Succession planning is crucial for family businesses to ensure a smooth transition of ownership and management to the next generation. In the context of inheritance tax, effective succession planning involves carefully structuring the ownership and transfer of shares or assets to minimize the tax burden. Strategies such as gifting shares over time, establishing trusts, or implementing family investment companies can be utilized to gradually transfer ownership while reducing inheritance tax liability. It is essential to involve professional advisors who specialize in both inheritance tax and business succession to develop a comprehensive plan that aligns with the family’s goals and preserves the long-term viability of the business.

  1. Making Use of Family Exemptions

In addition to business relief, family businesses can also take advantage of various exemptions available for transfers within the family. For instance, transfers of assets between spouses or civil partners are generally exempt from inheritance tax. Additionally, assets passed on to direct descendants, such as children or grandchildren, may be eligible for the main residence nil-rate band, which provides an additional tax allowance for the family home. By understanding and utilizing these family exemptions, family businesses can reduce their inheritance tax liability and ensure the smooth transfer of assets to the next generation.

  1. Seek Professional Advice

Given the complexities involved in both inheritance tax and family businesses, seeking professional advice is essential. Engaging the services of experienced tax advisors, accountants, and solicitors who specialize in both areas can provide invaluable guidance in navigating the intricacies of inheritance tax planning for family businesses. These professionals can provide bespoke solutions tailored to the unique circumstances of the family and the business, ensuring compliance with tax regulations and maximizing tax efficiency.


Inheritance tax poses specific challenges for family businesses, but proactive planning and the implementation of tax-efficient strategies can help safeguard the business for future generations. Valuing the business accurately, utilizing business relief, effective succession planning, leveraging family exemptions, and seeking professional advice are all key components of a comprehensive inheritance tax planning strategy for family businesses. By addressing these considerations, family businesses can minimize their inheritance tax liability, preserve the value of the business, and ensure its long-term continuity and success.

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