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How do I gift money without being taxed?

Alicia Babaee, Consumer Finance Specialist
Written by Alicia Babaee, Consumer Finance Specialist

21 August 2020

You may be able to give away money without paying tax, but it depends on who it goes to and how much you give. Here is what you need to know about gifting money without paying tax.

If you’re looking to gif money, you’re probably wondering ‘how much money can you give as a gift, UK wide?’. You might also be interested to know how you can do so without paying gift tax, UK wide.

We’re here to explain everything you need to know about gifting money without paying tax.

Is every gift subject to gift tax, UK wide? 

No. In some cases, you can gift money without paying tax. Here’s a rundown.

  • Annual exemption: Everyone has an allowance of £3,000 a year that they can gift as they please without paying tax. 

  • Small gifts: These are additional small gifts of up to £250 per person you make – such as birthday or Christmas presents – using your regular income. 

  • Wedding or civil ceremony gifts: How much you can gift tax-free depends on your relationship with the person receiving the money.

  • Spouse or partner: You don’t pay any tax if you gift money to your UK-based spouse or civil partner. 

  • Charities and political parties: You don’t pay tax if you gift money to registered UK charities and political parties.

  • Living costs: You can make payments from your surplus income to help with another person’s living costs, such as an elderly relative or child under 18.

You’ll find more information on these types of gifts below. But, as a quick check, no tax is paid on monetary gifts that meet the following criteria:

  • You give the gift more than seven years before you die

  • You give the gift to your spouse, civil partner, or a registered UK charity

  • The amount is less than your annual allowance of £3,000.

Why are gifts taxed?

It’s done to stop people from trying to avoid Inheritance Tax by giving away all their money before they die.

You can still gift money, as explained above. But HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) rules mean you can’t give away large sums without paying tax.

There’s more information on Inheritance Tax below.

Does it matter who I’m gifting money to?

You can gift money to anyone you like, but there might be tax to pay. There are certain people or bodies to whom you can gift money without paying Inheritance Tax. These are:

  • Your husband, wife or civil partner, as long as they live permanently in the UK

  • Registered UK charities (you can check which charities qualify on the GOV.UK website)

  • Some national organisations, like universities, museums and the National Trust.

These are known as ‘exempt beneficiaries’. There’s no limit on how much you can gift to exempt beneficiaries.

How much money can you give as a gift, UK wide, as part of your ‘annual exemption’? 

You might be wondering how much money can you gift before tax is due on it. While you’re alive, you can give away a total of £3,000 each tax year to people who are not your exempt beneficiaries without paying tax. This is called your ‘annual exemption’. It won’t be added to the value of your estate when it comes to working it out for Inheritance Tax purposes.

Remember that this is your personal allowance. That means you can give away a total of £3,000. You cannot give £3,000 each to several people. For example, if you had three children, you would have to split your personal annual exemption of £3,000 between them. However, their other parent could do the same.

Your annual exemption can be carried forward one year if you don’t use it. For example, if you don’t make any cash gifts from your annual exemption this year, you could give away a total of £6,000 next year. Be aware that tax rules can change.

What else counts as a gift?

Small cash gifts

On top of your annual exemption, you can also give away small, tax-free gifts of up to £250. You can give these smaller gifts to as many people as you like during the tax year, such as for Christmas or birthday presents. But remember that:

  • You cannot give a gift of more than £250, and avoid paying tax on the first £250. For example, you cannot give a gift of £400 and only pay tax for £150

  • You cannot give these small cash gifts to the people who’ve already received all or part of your £3,000 annual exemption limit. You still have to pay tax on small cash gifts you give to those people.

Wedding gifts

You can also give cash gifts for weddings or civil partnerships without paying tax. 

The amount you can give tax-free depends on your relationship with the person receiving the money:

  • If you’re their parent, you can give them up to £5,000 tax free

  • If you’re their grandparent, you can give up to £2,500 tax free

  • For anyone else, you can give up to £1,000 tax free.

However, if the wedding or civil partnership is called off and you’ve already given a gift, it’ll no longer be exempt from Inheritance Tax.

Regular gifts or payments

Gifts that are made using your surplus, taxed income are also exempt from tax. You must be able to prove that these gifts are not coming from your savings.

This includes:

  • Maintenance for your husband, wife or civil partner

  • Maintenance for your ex-husband, ex-wife or civil partner

  • Maintenance for relatives who depend on you, such as elderly parents

  • Maintenance for children under 18 or in full time education

  • Monthly or regular payments to anyone

  • Paying into your child’s savings account

  • Regular gifts for Christmas, birthdays or wedding and civil partnership anniversaries

  • Grandparents paying for their children’s school fees

  • Premiums on life insurance policies.

GOV.UK explains that while these gifts are exempt from tax, you must be able to maintain your current standard of living after making the gift.

Does it matter when you gift the money?

Yes. If you’ve given a monetary gift more than seven years before you die, then it’s exempt from Inheritance Tax.

If you’ve given a gift three to seven years before your death, then Inheritance Tax will be charged at a reduced rate. This is known as taper relief.

If you die less than seven years after you’ve gifted money, Inheritance Tax must be paid. The amount of tax payable depends on the value of the gift:

  1. If the gift’s above the Inheritance Tax threshold then the recipient – or a representative of your estate – has to pay Inheritance Tax on the total value of the gift. This applies to gifts over £325,000.

  2. If the gift’s below the Inheritance Tax threshold then the value of the gift’s added to your estate, and tax is paid on the amount over the threshold. For example, if your estate’s worth £300,000 and you gifted £50,000, your estate only pays tax on £25,000.

This table will help you to work out how taper relief might affect the tax due on a gift.

Years between gift and deathTax due
Under 340%
3 to 432%
4 to 524%
5 to 616%
6 to 78%
7 or more0%

GOV.UK has more information on taper relief.

What if I want to gift a large amount of cash?

If you want to give your child a large amount of money that takes you over the £3,000 annual allowance, there are tax implications. If you died within seven years of giving them this monetary gift, they might have to pay Inheritance Tax on it.

But, if you live for seven years after making the gift, there will be no tax to pay. This is called a ‘potentially exempt transfer’.

What’s Inheritance Tax?

Inheritance Tax is paid on your estate when you die. It is currently set at 40%.

Inheritance Tax only has to be paid if your estate’s worth more than £325,000. Your estate includes:

  • Money in bank accounts

  • Property you own

  • Investments or other possessions such as jewellery.

Who pays Inheritance Tax?

Funds from your estate are used to pay Inheritance Tax. Anyone who benefits from your will receives their share of the estate after the tax has been deducted.

Inheritance Tax is usually payable on the value of your estate over £325,000. It’s charged at 40% but this is reduced to 36% if you donate 10% or more of the estate to charity.

For example, if your estate is worth £400,000 and you donate £40,000 to charity, you only pay 36% on £35,000.

It’s important to keep a record of:

  • what you give away

  • who you give money, gifts or possessions to 

  • when you give money, gifts or possessions away

  • how much money you give, or what the gifts or possessions are worth.

This will make it far easier for the executor of your estate to work out what tax needs to be paid. 

Find out more about Inheritance Tax here.

How do you go about gifting money?

The easiest way is to transfer the money into the recipient's bank account. This could be a current account, or a savings account.

If the person you’re gifting money to plans to put it into savings that they can withdraw from easily, they could open an instant access savings account. Compare savings accounts here to find the best one for your beneficiary.

You can also gift money by:

Transferring property such as your home or car.

*All information is based on 2020/21 tax rules.

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