The Inheritance Tax Puzzle: Challenging assumptions about public attitudes to inheritance


Over £100 billion is passed on in inheritances and gifts in the UK each year, and the value passed on in inheritance in England is set to double by 2040. Despite this, it is not widely discussed in policy conversations, unless the policy is to abolish inheritance tax.

Policymakers are hesitant to push for reform of inheritance policy because there is a sense that the public are strongly opposed to
inheritance tax. However, our new report – based on a representative sample of over 2,000 people across the UK, the most in-depth survey on attitudes to specific inheritances to date – reveals a much more complex picture. While the public do initially express opposition to taxing inheritances, when presented with specific inheritances – such as certain amounts of money or types of asset – the public are much more supportive of taxes.

Certain ways of framing inheritances – even if there are no substantive differences in the inheritance at all – can also generate more public support for taxes. Equally, public attitudes are associated, and perhaps rely upon, a system of values and beliefs which are open to challenge.

Our report explores these many complexities, and in doing so, provides a starting point for more nuanced policy discussions. We think this could move us beyond the overly simplistic debate that has dominated thus far.

You can access the data tables here.