Potentially Exempt Transfer

Potentially Exempt Transfer
Potentially Exempt Transfer
Full Overview Of Potentially Exempt Transfer

Understanding Potentially Exempt Transfers (PETs) is crucial for effective estate planning and managing potential inheritance tax (IHT) liabilities. At DLS Solicitors, we recognise the importance of strategic financial planning in safeguarding your assets and ensuring your wishes are honoured. This comprehensive guide provides an in-depth look at Potentially Exempt Transfers, covering their legal framework, practical applications, and strategic considerations.

What is a Potentially Exempt Transfer?

A Potentially Exempt Transfer is a gift made during an individual’s lifetime that becomes exempt from inheritance tax if the donor survives for seven years after making the gift. PETs are a key component of estate planning, allowing individuals to reduce the value of their taxable estate and potentially lower their IHT liability.

The legal framework for PETs is primarily governed by the Inheritance Tax Act of 1984. This legislation outlines the rules and conditions under which lifetime gifts are treated for IHT purposes. PETs are a specific category of lifetime gifts that are initially subject to IHT but become exempt if the donor survives the seven-year period.

Key Features

  • Seven-Year Rule: PETs become exempt from IHT if the donor survives for seven years after making the gift.
  • Taper Relief: If the donor dies within seven years, taper relief may reduce the amount of IHT payable, depending on the time elapsed since the gift was made.
  • Unlimited Amount: There is no limit on the amount that can be transferred as a PET.
  • Immediate Use: The recipient can immediately use and benefit from the gift.

Practical Applications of Potentially Exempt Transfers

PETs can be used in various scenarios to achieve specific estate planning objectives. At DLS Solicitors, we help clients understand how to effectively use PETs in their financial planning.

Reducing the Taxable Estate

One of the primary benefits of PETs is that they reduce the donor’s taxable estate. By transferring assets to beneficiaries during their lifetime, individuals can decrease the value of their estate, potentially lowering their IHT liability upon their death.

Passing Wealth to Future Generations

PETs are an effective way to pass wealth to future generations without immediate tax consequences. This can be particularly beneficial for parents or grandparents wishing to support younger family members by providing funds for education or purchasing a home.

Charitable Donations

Gifts to charities can also be classified as PETs. Charitable donations not only support worthy causes but also contribute to reducing the taxable estate and potential IHT liability.


PETs can be used to transfer assets into trusts. This can provide additional control over how and when beneficiaries receive the assets, which can be particularly useful for protecting young or vulnerable beneficiaries.

Conditions and Limitations

While PETs offer significant benefits, some specific conditions and limitations must be considered.

The Seven-Year Rule

The most critical condition for a PET to become exempt from IHT is that the donor must survive for seven years after making the gift. If the donor dies within this period, the value of the gift may be subject to IHT.

Taper Relief

If the donor dies within seven years, taper relief can reduce the IHT payable on the PET. The relief applies on a sliding scale, reducing the tax liability based on the number of years elapsed since the gift was made:

  • 3 to 4 years: 20% reduction
  • 4 to 5 years: 40% reduction
  • 5 to 6 years: 60% reduction
  • 6 to 7 years: 80% reduction

Reservation of Benefit

For a gift to qualify as a PET, the donor must not retain any benefit from the gifted asset. If the donor continues to benefit from the asset (e.g., continuing to live in a gifted house without paying market rent), the gift will not be considered a PET and may be subject to IHT.

Annual Exemption

In addition to PETs, individuals can take advantage of the annual exemption, which allows gifts of up to £3,000 per tax year without incurring IHT. This exemption can be combined with PETs to optimise estate planning strategies.

The PET Process

Making a PET involves several steps, each requiring careful planning and documentation. At DLS Solicitors, we guide our clients through each stage to ensure compliance with legal requirements and maximise the benefits of PETs.

Identifying Assets for Transfer

The first step in making a PET is to identify the assets that will be transferred. This can include cash, property, investments, or other valuable assets. It is essential to consider the potential impact on the donor’s financial situation and ensure they retain sufficient assets to meet their needs.


Proper documentation is crucial for PETs. This includes creating formal gift deeds or letters of intent that clearly outline the transfer details, including the value of the gift, the recipient, and the date of the transfer. This documentation provides evidence of the gift and is essential for tax reporting purposes.


Accurate valuation of the gifted assets is necessary to determine the potential IHT liability if the donor dies within seven years. Professional valuations may be required for significant or complex assets, such as property or business interests.

Reporting to HMRC

While there is no immediate requirement to report PETs to HMRC, they must be disclosed if the donor dies within seven years. This includes providing details of the gifts and supporting documentation to ensure the accurate calculation of any IHT liability.

Strategic Considerations

Successfully utilising PETs in estate planning requires strategic thinking and expert advice. At DLS Solicitors, we work closely with our clients to develop tailored strategies that align with their financial goals and circumstances.

Timing and Planning

The timing of PETs is crucial. Early planning and making gifts well in advance of any anticipated changes in health or financial circumstances can maximise the benefits. We help clients develop a timeline for making PETs that optimises tax advantages and aligns with their overall estate planning strategy.

Combining PETs with Other Exemptions

Combining PETs with other IHT exemptions and reliefs can enhance their effectiveness. This includes utilising the annual exemption, making gifts out of surplus income, and considering reliefs for business or agricultural property. Our solicitors provide comprehensive advice on how to integrate these elements into a cohesive estate plan.

Monitoring and Reviewing

Estate planning is an ongoing process that requires regular monitoring and review. Changes in legislation, financial circumstances, or family dynamics can impact the effectiveness of PETs. We assist our clients in periodically reviewing their estate plans to ensure they remain aligned with their objectives and take advantage of any new opportunities.

Mitigating Risks

While PETs offer significant tax advantages, they also carry risks, particularly if the donor’s health declines unexpectedly. We help clients develop contingency plans to mitigate these risks, such as ensuring adequate life insurance coverage for potential IHT liabilities.

Case Studies and Practical Examples

To illustrate the practical implications of PETs, let’s examine a few case studies:

Supporting Future Generations

Mr. and Mrs. Smith, both in their early 60s, decided to support their grandchildren by contributing to their university education. They gifted £50,000 to each of their three grandchildren. By making these gifts as Potentially Exempt Transfers (PETs) and surviving for more than seven years, Mr. and Mrs. Smith successfully reduced their taxable estate. This ensured that the value of the gifts was exempt from inheritance tax (IHT) while also providing substantial support for their grandchildren’s future.

Charitable Donations

Ms Johnson, a philanthropist, wished to support her favourite charity and reduce her inheritance tax (IHT) liability. She donated £200,000 to the charity as a Potentially Exempt Transfer (PET). By living for more than seven years after making the donation, Ms. Johnson ensured that the gift was exempt from IHT. Additionally, the donation immediately benefited the charity, aligning with Ms. Johnson’s philanthropic goals.

Transferring Property to Family

Mr. Brown, a widower, owned a second home valued at £300,000. He decided to gift the property to his daughter as a PET. To ensure the gift qualified as a PET, Mr. Brown moved out of the property and did not retain any benefit from it. By surviving for more than seven years after making the gift, the property’s value was excluded from his estate for IHT purposes, reducing his overall IHT liability and providing significant financial support to his daughter.

Navigating the complexities of PETs requires expert legal assistance and guidance. At DLS Solicitors, we offer a range of services to support clients in all aspects of estate planning, including:

Legal Advice and Consultation

Our experienced solicitors offer personalised legal advice on the advantages and potential impacts of PETs. This helps our clients make well-informed decisions that are in line with their financial objectives and individual circumstances. We provide thorough guidance throughout the entire PET process, ensuring adherence to legal regulations and maximising tax benefits.

Documentation and Compliance

We help clients prepare all required documentation for PETs, such as gift deeds, letters of intent, and valuations. Our solicitors ensure the accuracy and completeness of all documents, providing vital evidence for tax reporting and compliance.

Strategic Estate Planning

We closely collaborate with our clients to create thorough estate planning strategies that include PETs and other IHT exemptions and reliefs. Our solicitors offer expert advice on timing, asset selection, and risk mitigation to enhance estate plans and accomplish our clients’ goals.

Monitoring and Review

We are committed to our clients beyond the initial planning stages. We provide continuous monitoring and review of estate plans to ensure that they remain aligned with changing circumstances and legislative developments. Our solicitors offer regular updates and advice to help clients adjust their plans as needed.


At DLS Solicitors, we understand that potentially exempt transfers (PETs) are a valuable tool in effective estate planning. By providing expert guidance, personalised advice, and robust legal support, we help our clients navigate the complexities of PETs and achieve their financial goals.

Whether you are considering making a PET to support family members, reduce your taxable estate, or fulfil charitable intentions, our team at DLS Solicitors is here to assist you. We are dedicated to protecting your interests and helping you achieve a fair and equitable financial settlement, ensuring you can move forward with financial security and peace of mind.

Potentially Exempt Transfer FAQ'S

A Potentially Exempt Transfer is a gift made during a person’s lifetime that is exempt from inheritance tax if the donor survives for seven years after making the gift.

The gift is exempt from inheritance tax if the donor survives for seven years after making the PET. If the donor dies within seven years, the gift may be subject to inheritance tax on a sliding scale known as “taper relief.”

Taper relief reduces the amount of inheritance tax payable on a PET if the donor dies between three and seven years after making the gift. The tax is reduced gradually, depending on how long the donor survives after making the gift.

Gifts to individuals or to certain types of trusts can qualify as PETs. Gifts to most trusts, companies, or charities do not qualify as PETs but may be exempt under different rules.

If the donor dies within three years of making a PET, the full value of the gift is subject to inheritance tax at the standard rate of 40%, subject to any available nil-rate band.

Yes, a PET can include cash gifts, physical assets (such as property or valuables), and transfers of shares or other financial instruments.

PETs should be reported on the Inheritance Tax return (IHT400) if the donor dies within seven years of making the gift. The executor of the estate is responsible for including these gifts in the calculation of the deceased’s estate for tax purposes.

Proper documentation, such as receipts, transfer records, and written agreements, should be maintained to support the PET. This evidence helps demonstrate the value and timing of the gift.

Yes, the annual gift exemption allows an individual to give away up to £3,000 each tax year without being treated as a PET. Gifts within this limit do not count towards the donor’s nil-rate band.

The seven-year rule states that if the donor survives for seven years after making a PET, the gift is fully exempt from inheritance tax. If the donor dies within this period, the gift may be subject to tax, but taper relief can reduce the liability if the donor survives for at least three years.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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