Residential property often represents the majority of a person's wealth and valuing it for Inheritance Tax (IHT) purposes is, par excellence, a matter for professionals. In a case on point, a son who dispensed with expert tax and valuation advice following his mother's death found himself in very deep water.
When the mother died, she owned three terraced houses in the same street. When it came to calculating IHT payable on her estate, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) valued them at £2.42 million in total. Her son, acting as her personal representative, challenged that assessment before the Upper Tribunal (UT), arguing that they had an aggregate value of just £840,000.
The son represented himself before the UT, without the assistance of lawyers or a property valuation expert. He presented statistical evidence and argued, amongst other things, that the value of the properties was restricted by the returns that could be achieved by letting them. Ranged against him was HMRC's legal team and a chartered surveyor with 33 years of experience in valuing properties.
Ruling on the matter, the UT noted that its task was to assess the properties' open market value as at the date of the mother's death. In doing so, it considered prices that had been fetched by comparable properties in the same area. It found that the properties were worth a total of £2.68 million on the relevant date – substantially more than HMRC's original assessment.