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Lifetime gifting: reliefs, exemptions and behaviours

Pounds and pennies
Published: May 2019

This research aimed to understand gifting behaviours among the British population.

Looking firstly at the incidence of gifting in the general population and how it varied between different groups. It also investigates the nature of gifting: the number and value of gifts given, what people gave, and their motivations for doing so. Finally, the project explored people’s awareness of inheritance tax (IHT) rules and exemptions, and the extent to which they were related to gifting behaviour.

You can download the full report from HMRC’s website.



  • 13% of the British population were ‘gifters’.

    They (or they and their spouse/ civil partner) reported having given a single gift of £1,000 or more and/or multiple gifts of at least £250 totalling £3,000 or more in the two years prior to the interview.
  • On the proportion of the population who were gifters varied with demographics.

    The proportion of gifters in the last two years varied by age, wealth, income, marital status, and whether or not the participant had children.
  • The majority of gifters gave relatively small amounts, with a smaller proportion gifting substantially more.

    Gifters gave a median total of three gifts over the two years prior to the interview, with a median total value of £4,000, and median average gift value of £1,000.
  • Gifts were given in a range of forms and for a range of reasons, and these varied with people’s circumstances.

    Overall, gifters were most likely to report one of the their three largest gifts to be a ‘present’ (43%), but a wide range of other purposes were also selected, from paying living expenses (23%), to passing on assets (12 %), with people often citing more than one purpose for a gift.
  • Relatively few gifters reported being influenced by IHT rules and exemptions.

    45% of gifters reported being aware of IHT rules or exemptions when they gave their largest gift. Of this group, 18% reported that the rules influenced that gift, equivalent to eight per cent of all gifters.


To estimate levels of gifting in the British population, a representative sample of 2,090 adults aged 18 and over in Britain was recruited from the probability-based NatCen Panel. To understand the behaviour of ‘gifters’ in more depth, the data from the 319 gifters identified in the general population survey was ‘boosted’ with an additional 628 interviews with gifters recruited from the PopulusLive panel, a non-probability opt-in panel.

Download the report from HMRC's website