Inheritance Tax does not just affect middle class

Gary Rycroft.
Gary Rycroft.

In case you hadn’t noticed a General Election is looming and so it’s no coincidence that Inheritance Tax is in the news again.

This is not just a matter that concerns the so-called middle class. Far from it; the Churchill family were recently faced with an Inheritance Tax bill of £9,404,990.00 after the death of Lady Mary Soames (Sir Winston’s last surviving child) last year.

Chartwell itself was gifted to the National Trust after the death of Sir Winston’s Widow Clementine in 1977

There is a local connection here in that one of Lady Mary’s children Charlotte Clementine Soames is the second wife of Earl Peel, who himself is the great grandson of Lancaster’s “Lino King” Lord Ashton. In a move that may well have been approved by the commercially minded Lord Ashton, the Churchill family have not had to pay over any hard cash to HM Revenue and Customs in respect of the tax due.

They have achieved this by invoking a mechanism under the Inheritance Tax Rules which allows Works of Art to be given to the nation in lieu of tax.

So paintings of and by her father owned by Lady Mary have been gifted in perpetuity to the nation. They include paintings which had been on long term loan to the trustees of Sir Winston’s former home Chartwell in Kent.

Chartwell itself was gifted to the National Trust after the death of Sir Winston’s Widow Clementine in 1977.

This was the deal done after the Second World War when it became clear Sir Winston and his wife could not afford to carry on running the large house and estate and so wealthy friends bought the property and rented it back to them for a nominal sum on the understanding the house would eventually be gifted to the National Trust.

It remains to be seen who will form the next Government. That said, one confident prediction I will make is that Inheritance Tax will not be abolished. Although that did happen in Italy, when a certain Billionaire Silvio Berlusconi came to power.

In a move that could be interpreted as self-interest he scrapped Inheritance Tax soon after becoming Prime Minister. Which made me wonder, maybe our current leaders are worrying about their own potential Inheritance Tax liability?