A Conservative MP has criticised his party’s proposals to introduce a huge increase in probate charges, claiming they will be seen as a ‘tax rather than a charge’.
Backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg said he had concerns about the plans and that the government should not be introducing what he described as ‘stealth taxes’.
The changes, coming into force in May, will result in a new scale whereby probate charges correlate to the size of the estate in question – rather than a blanket one-off fee.
The proposals will mean some people will have to pay 129 times more than they currently do.
Current probate fees are set at £215, or £155 for those applying through a solicitor.
On the new scale, estates worth more than £2m will face a £20,000 charge, estates valued between £1.6m and £2m will be charged £12,000, while a £1,000 charge will be placed on estates valued at between £300,000 and £500,000.
Only those estates below £50,000 will be exempt from charges.
Speaking after chancellor Philip Hammond delivered the spring budget yesterday Rees-Mogg told MPs: ‘I see that it [the new charge] is likely to be judged by the national statistics people as a tax rather than as a charge, and I do not think it right that the government should introduce stealth taxes.’
The MP for North East Somerset added: ‘Probate charges should relate to the cost of the probate work, which is broadly irrelevant to the size of the estate. There might be some more work for bigger estates, but the difference will not necessarily be as large as has been proposed.’
Last week solicitors told the Gazette that there was ‘little if any’ extra work involved in granting probate on an estate of £5m than there is on a £50,000 estate.
According to the Ministry of Justice the plans will introduce a ‘fairer banded system’, in which more than half of estates will pay nothing and 92% will pay no more than £1,000.
The money that the fees generate will be used to fund the courts system and build a ‘world-leading justice system’, it said.
The charges in full are:
Value of estate Proposed fee
Up to £50,000 £0
Between £50k-£300k £300
Between £300k-£500k £1,000
Between £500k-£1m £4,000
Between £1m-£1.6m £8,000
Between £1.6m-£2m £12,000
More than £2m £20,000