Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Thursday, 6 April 2006 11:47 UK

When does inheritance tax apply?

A house
High house prices are pushing up IHT receipts

Inheritance tax (IHT) affects estates which are valued at more than 300,000.

There has been opposition to the tax from all sides of the political spectrum but the government has so far avoided making any changes.

To satisfy some critics, some tax experts believe that the threshold could be increased to 400,000 - which would mean only the very wealthy would fall within the tax.

Property included

A person's estate includes the value of their house and because of the extent to which house prices have risen in recent years, the property can easily account for the lion's share of the 300,000 limit without much difficulty.

This is particularly likely if the deceased person lived in London or another property hot spot.

Sliding scale

The total amount of tax that must be paid by the estate depends not only on the value of the estate when they die - but also on the value of gifts given in the previous seven years.

Although some are exempt from IHT, many others are not - and attract IHT on a sliding scale depending on how long ago they were given.

Those which are exempt include gifts of up to 250 per person per year, as well as wedding gifts of up to 5,000 for your children or to anyone else of up to 1,000, plus all gifts to political parties and charities.

If you have complicated tax affairs, it is important to seek advice from a qualified accountant - especially as it is keen to tighten-up on some types of tax planning.

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