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HMRC internal manual

Inheritance Tax Manual

Decorations, medals and awards

Where a death occurs on or after 3 December 2014, decorations and awards that fall within any of the descriptions below are excluded property, provided that the decoration or award has never been disposed of for a consideration in money or money’s worth, IHTA84/S6(1B). Prior to that date, the exclusion only applied to decorations and awards that were awarded for valour or gallantry.

The decorations and awards concerned are described in IHTA84/S6(1BA) and are those

  1. that are designed to be worn to denote the membership of an Order that is, or has been, specified in the Order of Wear published in the London Gazette, or an Order of a country or territory outside the UK,
  2. that is, or has been, specified in the Order of Wear,
  3. that was awarded for valour or gallant conduct,
  4. that was awarded for, or in connection with, an individual being, or having been, a member of, or employed or engaged in connection with, the armed forces of any country or territory,
  5. that was awarded for, or in connection with, a person being, or having been, an emergency responder (IHTM11292)
  6. that was awarded by the Crown or a country or territory outside the UK for, or in connection with, public service or achievement in public life.

The most recent issue of the Order of Wear is published in the London Gazette dated 14 March 2003. As well as decorations and medals that can be worn other items, such as swords or silverware, might be awarded for bravery and are covered by the exclusion.

The meaning of the word ‘disposition’ at IHTA84/S6(1B) is expanded  by IHTA84/S6(1C) and includes a disposition of part of a decoration or award or an interest in it.

In applying IHTA84/S6(1C), each medal or decoration is a single award, so that even if an individual owned a number of medals, the disposal of one of them does not affect the exclusion applying to the remaining medals. This is still the case even if the medals were awarded to an individual with a particularly heroic or noteworthy service record.

On the other hand, if the award comprises a number of physical pieces, for example, a silver salver and 6 engraved silver goblets, the award must be retained as a cohesive whole to qualify for the exclusion. So the sale of 2 of the goblets would prevent the exclusion applying to the remaining items.

Similarly, if a medal is bequeathed to two beneficiaries jointly, the sale of their half share by one joint owner to the other would bring the exclusion to an end.

The exclusion is very wide and includes all types of Orders, Decorations, Medals and Commendations, other than monetary awards, that fall within the categories described above.  Individuals may

  • be appointed to an Order, for example a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE);
  • be awarded a Decoration, for example the Victoria Cross (VC) or Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) ;
  • be awarded operational service, war or campaign medals, Jubilee or Coronation medals, long service medals or a King or Queen’s Commendation.

Both military and civil divisions of an Order are included.

The exclusion extends to Awards made otherwise than by the State where the person was an emergency responder and so includes police and fire service medals and awards, RNLI and other life-saving medals.

It also includes Orders, Decorations and Medals awarded by the Crown or a country or territory outside the UK for public service or achievement in public life, together with medals awarded by international organisations such as the United Nations and NATO. Overseas awards for gallantry would include the Legion d’Honneur, Croix de Guerre and Order of Medjidieh.