“I Would Abolish Inheritance Tax”

Inheritance tax is a contentious issue in the UK, with many people questioning its fairness and impact on families. One person who strongly advocates for the abolition of inheritance tax is adventurer and industrialist Sir David Hempleman-Adams. In an interview, he speaks about his own experiences with money, the value of expeditions, and why he believes inheritance tax should be abolished.

Gave Away His Property

Sir David Hempleman-Adams, a renowned adventurer and industrialist, has made headlines by giving away his property and assets to his children to avoid paying inheritance tax (IHT). At the age of 66, he lives in Wiltshire with his partner Dr Rosalind Smith and has three adult daughters. Hempleman-Adams believes that if he were made Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would abolish IHT.

In his childhood, Hempleman-Adams grew up in a typical middle-class family in Swindon. His father, an industrial chemist, instilled in him the values of being hungry but not greedy. His family owned a glue manufacturing business, which Hempleman-Adams eventually joined. Despite his privileged upbringing, he recalls questioning his father’s decision to pay for bottled water in restaurants, suggesting that tap water would suffice.

When asked if he ever struggled to make ends meet, Hempleman-Adams expresses humility and acknowledges that his travels around the world have exposed him to people who live on the brink of starvation. This perspective makes him appreciate the comforts of British life, such as having a hot meal in a restaurant or a warm shower.

Regarding the most expensive expedition he has been on, Hempleman-Adams mentions his solo and unsupported walk to the South Pole in the mid-1990s. The cost of the expedition was £75,000, equivalent to nearly £150,000 today. Reflecting on whether he has ever been paid silly money, he shares a story of a bank asking him to give an hour-long lecture, which ended up being only ten minutes due to other speakers overrunning. Though he only spoke for a short time, it was the most lucrative period in his life, earning him enough money to buy a small family car.

Hempleman-Adams’ best financial year came in 1995 when he sold part of his glue business to an American corporation. While he doesn’t disclose the exact amount, he describes it as a life-changing sum that brought wealth and stability to his family. He also emphasizes his commitment to giving back to society, sharing profits with the workforce and donating to charities.

Leading expeditions while running a business proved challenging, but Hempleman-Adams managed to strike a balance by building a strong management team that allowed him to delegate responsibilities. However, even in remote locations, he maintained constant communication with the team through satellite phones. He recounts a time in the Arctic, shivering in freezing temperatures, while discussing marketing brochures for the glue business.

The experience of expeditions has profoundly impacted Hempleman-Adams’ perspective on money. When you have to rely on minimal possessions, it shifts your worldview. Regardless of someone’s bank balance, they are affected by the harsh conditions, experiencing cold and fear. This humbling experience has made Hempleman-Adams realize that a minimalist lifestyle can be fulfilling, leading him to prioritize basic needs over material wealth.

Turning to financial mistakes, Hempleman-Adams shares a common error of taking stock tips from friends over Sunday lunch, only to watch the shares plummet later that day. He has learned to avoid direct investments in the stock market as a result. On the other hand, his best money decision has been investing in property, as every house he has owned has proven to be a sound investment.

When it comes to pensions, Hempleman-Adams no longer contributes, citing it as no longer being tax-efficient for him. Nevertheless, he recognizes the importance of having a pension as a safety net. While he started saving into a pension 40 years ago, he has yet to access those funds.

Interestingly, Hempleman-Adams no longer owns any property because he has transferred ownership to his children for inheritance tax planning. This decision leaves him vulnerable in the event his partner kicks him out of her house, as he jokes about living in a tent on Dartmoor and hoping for a bacon sandwich from a passer-by.

In his hypothetical role as Chancellor, Hempleman-Adams would abolish inheritance tax. He believes that the UK should follow the lead of countries like the US, where such a tax does not exist. Previously associated with big estates having to sell off assets to pay death duties, inheritance tax now affects a much larger group of people.

As a philanthropist, Hempleman-Adams has established the Youth Adventure Trust, which enables disadvantaged young people to partake in expeditions. He is also involved as a trustee in charities such as Outward Bound and the Royal Aero Club, where he generously contributes both financially and through his time.

In terms of his number one financial priority, Hempleman-Adams aims to provide security and alleviate financial concerns for his three daughters.


Sir David Hempleman-Adams, a prominent adventurer and industrialist, has shared his perspectives on money, his experiences with expeditions, and his strong belief in abolishing inheritance tax. His upbringing, expeditions, and encounters with different cultures have shaped his views on wealth and contentment. Hempleman-Adams’ dedication to philanthropy and ensuring the well-being of his family serve as a reminder that money can be used to create positive change and provide security for loved ones.