Introduction to this document

Transferable nil rate band checklist

When one spouse dies before the other, any unused nil rate band can be transferred to their surviving spouse. But HMRC will require details of the inheritance tax history of the first death in order to agree any claim on the second.

Transferable nil rate band

In October 2007 the government introduced new rules which allows a deceased’s personal representatives (executors) etc. to claim all or part of the nil rate band (NRB) from their spouse or civil partner. The amount that can be claimed is the proportion that was unused when the first spouse or civil partner died. This allowable portion is known as the transferable nil rate band (TNRB).

The amount of the TNRB that can be claimed when the second spouse dies is calculated using the following formula:

% of NRB unused on first death x value of the NRB on the second death

The amount available is restricted to 100% of the NRB on the second death. This restriction is to take account of fluctuations in the level of NRBs across different tax years. This means that the level of the NRB that was in force when the first spouse died is irrelevant; it’s the proportion that was unused that counts.


The NRB for 2002/3 is £250,000. Danielle died in June 2002, the net value of all her assets and liabilities on death is £300,000. She leaves her entire estate to her husband George. Because this is a transfer to a spouse it’s covered by the spousal gift exemption meaning that none of the £250,000 NRB available is used.

George dies in December 2016 with an estate of £700,000. The NRB for 2016/17 is £325,000.

Because Danielle left everything to George, she didn’t use any of her NRB. George’s personal representatives can claim £325,000 TNRB, 100% of the NRB when George dies. Therefore, the total amount of NRB that can be applied to George’s estate is £650,000.

Keep a record

As there may be a considerable period of time between the first and second deaths, it may be difficult to prove what, if any, nil rate band has been transferred. Use our Transferable Nil Rate Band Checklist to ensure you retain all the relevant documents and records to claim the TNRB.