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.