Inheritance tax should not be left to the little guys to pay

'An exemption from inheritance tax is being used, and in the words of the Revenue Commissioners 'abused', by the wealthy'

Charlie Weston

Taxes in this country are only for the little people.

That conclusion is hard to escape when it comes to a blatant loophole being used by those wealthy enough to afford good tax advice to ensure they avoid paying inheritance tax.

Ordinary families have to pay tax at a punitive rate of 33pc on amounts valued at more than €280,000 when a son or daughter gets an inheritance.

The thresholds for people inheriting from anyone other than their parents are ridiculously restrictive.

If you inherit from your sibling, or your aunt or uncle, or your grandparent, then your tax-free threshold is only €30,150. Anything above this is taxed at 33pc. Worse again, if you inherit from a non-blood relative, the tax-free threshold is only €15,075, according to solicitor with Susan Murphy.

This means people with no children who have worked hard and paid their taxes, but because they don't have children, they are left with the worry about leaving their beneficiaries with a big tax bill.

It takes the good out of leaving an inheritance.

What is more galling is that an exemption from inheritance tax is being used, and in the words of the Revenue Commissioners "abused", by the wealthy.

Section 86 of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act allows parents to gift properties to their children without paying tax, once their child has lived in the property for three years.

The loophole has been used to transfer properties worth tens of millions of euros each year.

Clever tax experts are using this as a mechanism for clients to shelter money.

Documents obtained by The Sunday Times show both the Department of Finance and Revenue Commissioners have known since 2007 how the scheme is being used.

Correspondence from the Revenue Commissioners to the department show the exemption was "much abused", according to an email last August. Revenue cites "some wealthy individuals" as the ones abusing it.

The Department of Finance now says the case for further amending the conditions is being examined by the department and Revenue with a view to consideration by the Minister in the context of the Finance Bill later this year.

The new Government should tackle this abuse as a matter of urgency. There is also a need to make the system fairer for beneficiaries who are not children.

It should not be a case of the middle-income earner who pays for everything having to stump up the tax, while the elites get to wriggle out of paying it.