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Old Women Take Government to Court Over Inheritance Tax

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006 at 22:31 by Rhys Wilcox

Current Inheritance Tax laws could force a sister to sell her farm when her sibling dies. Even though they’ve both lived there for their entire lives.

Everyone knows that Inheritance Tax (IHT) is one of the government’s biggest rip-offs and yet most people seem quite complacent about its existence. A recent Bradford & Bingley survey showed that the majority of people who presumed they would not be liable for it upon their demise did so because they did not think their house would be worth enough. House prices have risen by 179% over the last decade to a national average of just under £200k but the IHT threshold has only risen by 85% to £285k. People may be a lot closer than they think to paying that 40% bill on all assets.

There are ways to beat it - by transferring assets into trusts and suchlike - and there are legal exemptions that protect married couples and civilly registered same-sex couples should a partner die.

But there’s nothing to protect cohabiting siblings like Joyce and Sybil Burden who have been living together for eighty years. They have been hassling the Chancellor of the Exchequer (in all his Dr Whoish incarnations) for thirty years, trying to get the law changed to their favour but now, with the elder sister rapidly reaching 90, they have decided to take the government to the European Court of Human Rights.

With an estate estimated at £850,000 you can’t blame them for their determination. Even more so after Joyce (88) said, “They are just hoping we die before we get to court.”

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