Most gifts made during a person’s lifetime are not subject to tax at the time of the gift. The lifetime transfers are known as ‘potentially exempt transfers’ or ‘PETs’. These gifts or transfers achieve their potential of becoming exempt from Inheritance Tax if the taxpayer survives for more than seven years after making the gift. There is a tapered relief available if the donor dies between three and seven years after the gift is made.
However, the rules are different if the person making the gift retains some ‘enjoyment’ of the gift made. This is usually the case where the donor does not want to give up control over the assets concerned. These gifts fall under the heading of ‘Gifts With Reservation of Benefits rules’ or ‘GWROBs’.
A common example is where an elderly person gifts their home to their children (who usually live elsewhere) and continues to live in the house rent-free. Under these circumstances, HMRC would say that the basic position of the donor remained unchanged and that this is a GWROB. In this case the taxman will not accept that a true gift has been made and the ‘gift’ would remain subject to Inheritance Tax even if the taxpayer dies more than 7 years after the transfer.