Inheritance tax

Inheritance tax upon death

Cryptoassets are treated as property for Inheritance Tax (IHT) purposes. This means that the sterling value at the date of death will form part of an individual’s Estate and IHT may be payable, depending on the overall size of the Estate.

HMRC sets out its position on IHT and cryptoassets in their guidance at CRYPTO25000.

A digital Will is recommended to provide instructions to your executors on how to access the cryptoassets. Without this, it may be an impossible task, in which case the executors will need to demonstrate to HMRC that the cryptoassets are irrecoverable and therefore worthless. It is unclear whether HMRC would accept such an argument, since the cryptoassets still exist on the blockchain and could objectively still retain a value; it is just that they cannot be accessed. It is most likely that the executors will need to prove to HMRC's satisfaction that the private key cannot be retrieved.

There is a significant risk of price volatility for executors. The value at the date of death is subject to Inheritance Tax, yet the value may drop significantly afterwards. There are currently no inheritance tax reliefs to take account of cryptoassets dropping in value after the date of death (unlike investments in shares and land).

The location (also referred to as situs) of assets may need to be determined for non-UK domiciled taxpayers. Guidance on HMRC’s position is at CRYPTO22600.

Inheritance tax upon lifetime transfers

Transfers of cryptoassets during an individual's lifetime are also subject to the inheritance tax regime. They may be subject to inheritance tax at the time of the transfer, depending on the value of the transfer, the recipient and prior transfers of value.

Gifts during an individual’s lifetime to another individual are Potentially Exempt Transfers (PETs) for IHT purposes. However a gift is a taxable disposal for Capital Gains Tax (CGT) purposes, so all relevant taxes need to be considered. IHT may be payable if the donor dies within 7 years of making the PET.

Gifts into a Trust are Chargeable Lifetime Transfers which may be subject to IHT at the date of transfer; in addition to being a taxable disposal for CGT purposes. Often the CGT can be deferred when there is a Chargeable Lifetime Transfer through.

If you are contemplating gifts or transfers at an undervalue of cryptoassets, it is recommended you seek bespoke advice from a qualified tax professional.

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