Obtaining an IHT reference number

Maybe this question has been asked before but I can’t recall seeing it. I would like to know why it takes 3 weeks for HMRC to provide an IHT reference which gets sent by Royal Mail. Why can’t it be generated automatically or at least sent by email? When you add the 3 weeks to the 20 working days before you can submit an IHT 400 case for probate, it just seems to be causing more and more delay to what should be a relatively seemless process.

Patrick Moroney

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Ah, but if all my colleagues did what I do, which is ask for an IHT reference on day one, it wouldn’t cause them any delay because the time HMRC spend generating the ref overlaps with the time (usually unavoidable) the solicitor spends getting in the info to complete the IHT forms and actually completing them.

Ah yes I agree with you Julian but occasionally as in one of my cases it turns out later in the initial enquiries that there are additional assets and consequently an inheritance tax liability and of course you can only ask for a reference if there is tax to pay. I still haven’t had an answer as to why it takes so long to generate a reference that could be done in seconds, surely.

Patrick Moroney

What is the penalty for always asking for and using a tax reference even if you don’t know that there will be any IHT payable?

Julian Cohen

Simons Rodkin

Ah yes I agree with you Julian but occasionally as in one of my cases it turns out later in the initial enquiries that there are additional assets and consequently an inheritance tax liability and of course you can only ask for a reference if there is tax to pay. I still haven’t had an answer as to why it takes so long to generate a reference that could be done in seconds, surely.

Patrick Moroney


Previous Replies
Ah, but if all my colleagues did what I do, which is ask for an IHT reference on day one, it wouldn’t cause them any delay because the time HMRC spend generating the ref overlaps with the time (usually unavoidable) the solicitor spends getting in the info to complete the IHT forms and actually completing them.

No penalty to my knowledge but it’s what HMRC asks so I try to comply. However as so many civil servants at No10 and other government offices have been flouting the law, perhaps I should think again!

Patrick Moroney

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I agree with Patrick’s original comments. It should be possible to receive an IHT reference much more quickly than is the case at present.

Some years ago there was a telephone number at HMRC which you could ring to get an IHT reference upon supplying a few details. The official at HMRC gave the number immediately. It was also possible to apply online but I can’t recall how quickly the reference was then received. The online procedure could only be used when the deceased had a UK NI number and many of the estates that I handle are of deceased Irish individuals who never worked in the UK.

In early January 2021 I was instructed to apply for a Grant in the estate of a deceased Irish-resident widower. The estate was well in excess of two nil rate bands, so was going to be liable to IHT. He had died in early February 2019 but, due to challenges to his Will, the Irish Grant had only just been received. The Irish solicitor did nothing about the English application until after the Irish Grant had been received. If a transferable nil rate band was to be claimed, I would have had to send the Inheritance Tax Account to HMRC before a date in February. I was concerned that I might not receive the reference on time, in which case I would have had to submit the Inheritance Tax Account without a reference and explain why in my accompanying letter. The Irish solicitor had not acted in the deceased wife’s estate but after investigation and as it approached the two year deadline, it transpired that she had left her substantial UK estate to nephews and nieces (they had no children), so there was no claim for a TNRB.

I have an identical situation at the moment. I received instructions two weeks ago, also in an Irish estate, where the deceased widower died on 20 February 2020. His wife had left him a life interest in her estate and in any event had no UK estate, so a 100% TNRB can be claimed. I applied for an IHT reference immediately after I had received the instructions but am concerned once again that I might have to submit the Inheritance Tax Account before receiving the reference.

This is something that should be raised with HMRC by STEP or The Law Society, as there is no reason why it should take so long to issue a reference.

Cliona O’Tuama

Solicitor

I have found that if you apply online the letter with the ref arrives about 2 weeks later. In cases where I have needed it earlier I have applied online and then call HMRC a few days later and they have given the ref over the phone