Stay of execution over proposed probate fee increase

21 April 2017

In a roller coaster ride, the Government first sought to rush their controversial hike in probate application fees through Parliament before the anticipated dissolution on 3 May, then overnight conceded that there is too little time to do so and announced that the measure will be scrapped.

Aside from the relevance to our work, we in UHY Letchworth also had some local interest in the policy, as our MP Oliver Heald brought the motion before the Second Delegated Legislation Committee on 19 April.

The proposed increase was not only unpopular, but potentially unlawful, with STEP and the Law Society having gone to the extent of seeking a QC opinion on the suggestion, initially made in Parliament and repeated during the Committee debate, that the rise represented a tax charge and not a fee. Accordingly that its bringing forward by way of Statutory Instrument was potentially ‘ultra vires’’.

The abandonment of the proposal is a welcome relief but the Government’s attempts to rush it through, coupled with their unwillingness to comment on whether it will be reintroduced in the event that they win the upcoming election, leaves a worrying feeling that we’ve not heard the last of this just yet.

For the last couple of years the legally regulated probate market has been opened up to increased competition with the Institute of Chartered Accountants (England and Wales) regulating certain numbers of their member firms to carry out such work. At UHY Hacker Young we have a number of offices in London, Kent and Hertfordshire holding that regulation who are able to offer a full end to end probate service to existing and prospective clients.

Should you have queries about this or any related probate matter please contact me or your local UHY tax expert for further guidance and advice. Alternatively, to read more of our tax blogs click here.