Overhaul of probate fees faces further criticism
The ICAEW pulled no punches in its written response to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), which was submitted after the department encouraged interested parties to take part in its consultation.
The body’s tax faculty and business law committee described the changes as “unfair” and “inappropriate” and effectively accused ministers of trying to introduce a levy by stealth.
“This increase therefore represents a pure revenue raising exercise, unrelated to the costs of the service provided,” said the ICAEW
“The fee structure proposed has strong elements of redistribution of wealth, with fees being levied on the basis of the value of estates rather than their complexity or other factors which might influence the costs borne by the Probate Office before they can grant clearance.”
Under the proposals, a flat fee will be replaced with a new tiered system, with the highest-value estates having to pay up to £20,000.
The ICAEW has pointed out that the plans outlined do not clarify how estates should be valued for the purpose of calculating the level of fee.
“We note that none of these inconsistencies or flaws are present in the IHT regime – which is not surprising in view of the long experience of HM Treasury in the design of taxes.
“Rather it re-emphasises the inappropriateness of less experienced government departments attempting a function which is both specialised and difficult.”
The organisation’s intervention comes after similar criticism was raised by the Law Society earlier this month.
The Government has conceded the proposals are unpopular but argued that the extra revenue is needed at a time when the court system is facing significant financial pressures.
For legal advice on probate matters, please contact Tony Millson and Deanna Hurst in Royds’ Private Client team.