Getting the full benefit of a gift to the total exclusion of the donor
A gift with reservation is a gift that is not fully given away. Where gifts with reservation were made on or after 18 March 1986, you can include the assets as part of your estate but there is no seven year limit as there is for outright gifts. A gift may begin as a gift with reservation but some time later the reservation may cease.
In order for a gift to be effective for exemption from Inheritance Tax, the person receiving the gift must get the full benefit of the gift to the total exclusion of the donor. Otherwise, the gift is not a gift for Inheritance Tax purposes.
An outright gift
For example, if you give your house to your child but continue to live there rent free, that would be a gift with reservation. If, after two years, you start to pay a market rent for living in the house, the reservation ceases when you first pay the rent. The gift then becomes an outright gift at that point and the seven year period runs from the date the reservation ceased. Or a gift may start as an outright gift and then become a gift with reservation.
Alternatively, if you give your house to your child and continue to live there but pay full market rent, there is no reservation. If over time you stop paying rent or the rent does not increase, so it is no longer market rent, a reservation will occur at the time the rent stops or ceases to be market rent.
The value of a gift for Inheritance Tax is the amount of the loss to your estate. If you make a cash gift, the loss is the same value as the gift. But this is not the case with all gifts.