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Last Updated: Friday, 3 February 2006, 00:24 GMT
'One third' of homes face 40% tax
London skyline
It is claimed half of London homes could be over the threshold
One in three UK homeowners will now be subject to a 40% inheritance tax, research suggests.

The survey by Scottish Widows bank claims 8.2m people - 34% of homeowners - have assets worth more than the 275,000 threshold for the tax.

The survey of over 2,000 homeowners found most were unaware of the limit and 73% of those liable for the tax had done nothing to lessen the bill.

The government is expected to earn 3.4bn in inheritance tax this year.

The threshold is scheduled to rise to 300,000 in the tax year 2007/08.

Anne Young, tax expert at Scottish Widows, said: "For many people it is possible to cut or even completely avoid Inheritance Tax Threshold (IHT) with just a few simple steps. The first and most obvious of which is to make a will.

Top areas for tax
1 Windsor & Maidenhead
2 Surrey
3 Buckingham
4 Greater London
5 Wokingham

"Inheritance tax is levied at 40% - planning now could save thousands."

As well as making a will she recommends leaving property in a trust of some kind.

The average household wealth now stands at 258,000, according to the study.

The wide regional variation in house prices mean that the tax affects people in London and the south-east in particular.

Other study

Scottish Widows estimates that almost half of homeowners in London and over a third in the rest of the south of England are over the threshold.

By contrast 23% of homeowners in the north and 15% in Scotland are over the threshold.

The results were based on census figures, data from the Land Registry and a survey of 2,294 homeowners.

A similar study by the Halifax bank in November claimed that the tax would be payable on 2.1 million homes.

The bank claimed that 12% of all privately owned homes were worth more than the tax threshold, rising to 50% of homes in London and south-east England.

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