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Chancellor George Osborne announced the measure as one of the headline changes in this year's Budget. He said he wanted it to become the norm that people leave ten per cent of their assets to charity and, to encourage this, said he would reduce inheritance tax on the net estates of those who did.

However, Fiona Graham, a Partner in the Private Client team at Boodle Hatfield, who regularly advises owners and collectors of important works of art and collections on inheritance tax matters, thinks the government need to look at the wider implications.

"No legislation is yet in place, but the announcement appears not to factor in lifetime giving, and one unexpected result might be a deferral of giving until death, with the inheritance tax savings outweighing the tax advantages of lifetime giving," she told ATG.

If so, she says, it would run against other Government measures unveiled recently to encourage private giving to the arts, such as a consultation on tax breaks for people who make lifetime donations of pre-eminent works of art or historical artefacts to the nation.

"The Government may yet need to revisit its plans to encourage greater private giving to the arts," she concluded.