Inheritance Tax Enquiries from the HMRC targets inaccurate property valuations

As a consequence of frequently inaccurate and unprofessional valuations, more and more beneficiaries of deceased estates have been left vulnerable to additional taxation and penalties that would not otherwise have been the case.

With the recession hopefully drawing to a close and tentative growth resuming, house prices have begun to stabilise and even rise in some areas (most prominently the South-East – see our Property Market Monthly Fact File   for more information). This has made it more important that accurate probate valuations are undertaken.

According to a top 20 accountancy firm, UHY Hacker Young, the HMRC had conducted 9,368 investigations into estates and beneficiaries in the year to December 2010, and raised additional tax of £70m by challenging the valuations of properties included in the estates of deceased people.

In each case, where an incorrect property valuation was found to have been produced without ‘reasonable care’, the estate and its beneficiaries ended up paying up to 100% of the additional tax liability, as well as the additional tax due. Reputedly, the average payment per case amounted to £24,600.

The figures strongly reinforce the need for a professional to carry out any valuations needed for inheritance tax purposes. A point stated clearly on the HMRC website:

“HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) strongly recommend that you use a professional valuer because they’ll make sure the valuation is as accurate as possible. You’ll have to pay their fees, but you may be able to claim these back from the estate later.”

Additionally, during investigations into whether ‘reasonable care’ had been taken in each case, the HMRC is reported to have asked certain questions including:

–         Did you seek professional advice from a qualified independent valuer?

–         Was the valuer’s attention drawn to particular features of the property (inc. development potential, the existence of a tenancy or occupancy by people other than the deceased.)?

–         Was anything unusual about the valuation questioned?

It is abundantly clear that by far the safest option for professional advisors or the executors of an estate when facing an inheritance is to have a professional, qualified and trustworthy chartered surveyor conduct an official valuation.

As the HMRC statistics have shown, not doing so could cost you an average of more than £24,600 in the long run.

3rd July 2011