Two of the most generous IHT reliefs are Agricultural Property Relief (APR) and Business Property Relief (BPR).

With them each providing up to 100% relief it is perhaps unsurprising that the borders of each tend to be closely monitored by HMRC.  Their challenges often end up in court, giving guidance into the legislation.

One area HMRC are keen to block is making an APR claim on an expensive executive house.  With changes in modern agriculture and common place use of cars for work commuting, houses which were historically farm houses are now often owned by city dwellers with nebulous connections to agriculture.  APR is generally blocked in these cases, because of the need for the dwelling to be used for agriculture and be of an appropriate ‘character’ in relation to the farming operation.

Historically, HMRC have argued that this nexus between the house and land requires common use and ownership.  In a recent case (Hanson) the Tribunal held that this was not the case.  Agricultural use was required, along with appropriate character for the relevant farming operation, but not necessarily common ownership.  This conclusion may prove very useful, especially in certain farming situations where different generations of a farming family may have different interests.  Often these evolve over time, without the parties necessarily taking the advice at each stage.

In another recent case (Zetland) the Tribunal found that no BPR was due, because the business was mainly one of dealing in land or the making or holding of investments.  Interestingly, the judgement does not seem to imply that the activities in managing commercial property were not a ‘business’.  The problem was rather that the nature of that business caused a disallowance of BPR.

As ever, understanding the consequences of dealing with valuable assets is important – even if it may mean paying for professional advice!

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