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HMRC internal manual

Inheritance Tax Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Communications: Personal applicants: seeing things from the personal applicant’s viewpoint

A personal applicant (PA) is anyone who chooses to deal with us directly, rather than employing an agent. A PA will generally have less understanding of Inheritance Tax than an agent, but this will not always be the case.

Dealing with PAs differs from solicitors for a variety of reasons

  • they do not usually have a detailed knowledge of Inheritance Tax (IHT)
  • they are unlikely to understand our procedures, especially our turnaround times
  • in many cases they have suffered a recent bereavement, and
  • the tax involved is likely to affect them personally

It will help if you can put yourself in their position as much as possible. Try to think about what you would want to know if you were them. You will save a lot of time if you anticipate what PAs are likely to ask and keep them informed. Specifically:

  • they need to know why you are taking a particular course of action, and
  • how long it will take. If you don’t know how long something will take, say so.

By keeping the PA informed you will reduce the chance of a complaint and may be able to close the file more quickly

You should tailor your approach to the particular PA you are dealing with. In general you are unlikely to go wrong if you assume a minimal knowledge of IHT but a level of intelligence equivalent to yours

Since the PA is likely to have suffered bereavement you should be sensitive in the way you raise queries and the wording you use. In particular:

  • do not refer to ‘the deceased’ but use the relationship between the deceased and the PA if known (for example, ‘your late mother’). If not known use the deceased’s name (for example, ‘the late Mrs ….’), but
  • be careful of relationships (for example, the wife of the PA’s late father may not be the PA’s mother but a stepmother).

Remember that the PA may still be grieving and that this may influence their behaviour.