Inheritance Tax Planning Handbook
John Bunker and Anthony Nixon
£95, Law Society
This text does what it says on the tin (well, the cover). Far from being a criticism, this is very much a compliment. The book declares itself a handbook. As explained in the preface, it is not a textbook but a helpful resource for practitioners to dip into for guidance.
The book begins with the first two parts covering some basics of trusts and estates, followed by practical points about probate and trusts. These sections are not voluminous and by no means cover the areas in great detail. This is fine as this is not – and should not be used as – a textbook. It is, however, pithy and easy to understand. The examples are particularly helpful in deftly elucidating some trickier points, such as the 14-year rule. The probate section is practical and prosaic.
We then move on to the raison d’etre of the book. This section, looking at inheritance tax planning, is thorough in covering the gamut of areas. It covers the more everyday issues of planning, with lifetime gifts, will planning with trusts and planning within two years of death. It covers agricultural and business property in a meaningful way, and usefully looks at the residence nil-rate band, which is always surprisingly complex to deal with in practice. The book also covers business planning, which is often overlooked in many texts for private client practitioners. Finally, specialist areas are covered including stamp duty land tax and domicile.
The real strength in this text is the structure. It is logical and has a detailed contents page which makes it easy to navigate, fulfilling its stated aim of allowing practitioners to dip into it as needed. It is concise and written in an easy writing style with a professional reader in mind. The practical tips are useful, if nothing else, providing a reminder of good practice or pitfalls.
It is also good to see the text dealing with current matters such as the Trust Registration Service, and the Office of Tax Simplification reports. My only criticism, if you were going to really push me, is that the background sections are a little long when compared to the substantive, and more interesting, part about planning.
Hilesh Chavda is a partner at Spencer West, London