Following recent reports of a special HMRC unit being established to explore family investment companies (FICs), consideration needs to be given to what this might mean from a corporate perspective.

FICs are used by families in a variety of ways: from a structure by which a family-run business prepares for trans-generational ownership and control through means of a family charter; providing a pool of resources for future generations to test their entrepreneurial spirit; to a simple holding vehicle for a portfolio of investments. FICs are not a 'one size fits all' proposition, and will have been tailored to individual requirements.

Given the breadth of FIC interests, HMRC will have to be mindful that FICs are, from a corporate perspective, just companies like any other. Any broad-brush action from an inheritance tax standpoint will inevitably have far-reaching implications for a variety of companies, family-owned or otherwise.