EU finance ministers approve changes to blacklist

Daniel NesbittWhen the European Union announced its blacklist of jurisdictions judged not to be cooperative on tax in December 2017 it granted several nations in the Caribbean extra time to change their tax systems to meet EU standards. That revised deadline has now passed and the EU’s finance ministers have approved a number of changes.

The following jurisdictions have been added to the blacklist:

• The Bahamas.
• The US Virgin Islands.
• Saint Kitts and Nevis.

As well as approving the additions ministers have removed Bahrain, the Marshall Islands and Saint Lucia from the list.

American Samoa, Guam, Namibia, Palau, Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago will remain on the blacklist.

A further four Caribbean jurisdictions have been placed on the grey-list of countries that have pledged to alter their practices:

• Anguilla.
• The British Virgin Islands.
• Dominica.
• Antigua and Barbuda.

One further jurisdiction, the Turks and Caicos Islands, has been given until 31 March 2018 to respond to the EU’s concerns.

STEP will continue to monitor the development of both the blacklist and the grey-list and will provide further updates when appropriate.

Daniel Nesbitt, Policy Executive, STEP 

HMRC announces penalties for late TRS registration


STEP has been awaiting HMRC’s verdict on the penalties that will be incurred for trusts that are not registered by the 5 March 2018 deadline. Today we received the following communication from HMRC.

‘On 8 December 2017, HMRC announced that while the 31 January 2018 deadline for making a Trust Registration Service (TRS) return would remain in place, we would not charge a penalty if trustees, or an agent acting on behalf of the trustee, failed to register their trust on the TRS before 31 January 2018 but no later than 5 March 2018.

HMRC will not automatically charge penalties for late TRS returns. Instead we will take a pragmatic and risk-based approach to charging penalties, particularly where it is clear that trustees or their agents have made every reasonable effort to meet their obligations under the regulations. We will also take into account that this is the first year in which trustees and agents have had to meet the registration obligations.

While our information suggests that most TRS returns have been filed, if you have not yet completed your TRS registration(s), you should do so as soon as possible.

When penalties can be issued

Penalties can be charged for administrative offences relating to a relevant requirement.

These are:

• a requirement to register using the TRS by the due date of 31 January after the end of the tax year in which the trustees pay tax on trust assets or income and
• a requirement to notify any change of information by the due date of 31 January after the end of the tax year in which the trustees pay tax on trust assets or income.

The administrative offences penalty

HMRC will charge a fixed penalty to reflect the period of delay:
• Registration made up to three months from the due date – £100 penalty
• Registration made three to six months after the due date – £200 penalty
• Registration more than six months late – either 5% of the tax liability or £300 penalty, whichever is the greater sum.

There is currently no facility to notify HMRC of any change of information online and, as such, we will not charge penalties for a contravention of this requirement until the online function is available.

A penalty will not be payable if we are satisfied you took reasonable steps to comply with the regulations.

HMRC also has the power to apply a penalty for money laundering offences under the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017/692.

These offences are more serious than administrative offences. HMRC will not bring these penalties in immediately. HMRC will consult on the structure of these penalties later this year, to ensure the penalty regime is fair and proportionate whilst cracking down on money laundering offences.’

  • HMRC has also confirmed to STEP that in scenarios where trusts have an income tax or CGT liability for previous years but are not registered for self-assessment then trustees do not need a Unique Tax Reference for this process, and HMRC recommends that the trustees submit an IHT100 as soon as possible.

Emily Deane TEP is STEP Technical Counsel

Reviewing the New Zealand Property (Relationships) Act: have your say

New ZealandYou might not know it, but New Zealanders have a love affair with trusts. NZ practitioners probably won’t be surprised to hear that there may be anywhere between 300,000 to 500,000 trusts in the country, one of the highest per capita rates in the world.

But trusts can lead to unfair outcomes when a relationship ends. As a general rule, trust property isn’t divided equally between the partners. It’s only divisible to the extent that each partner is a beneficiary of the trust, and has a vested or contingent interest in the trust property. That means the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (PRA) doesn’t apply to a lot of the property used and enjoyed by New Zealand families.

While the law does offer some remedies, there are issues with those too. Sections 44 and 44C of the PRA are limited, and the proliferation of alternative remedies to attack trusts is making it difficult for practitioners to provide advice. Many people argue that the PRA should deal with trusts more effectively, and on a clearer and more principled basis.

Our preliminary view is that the PRA doesn’t strike the right balance between the preservation of trusts and enabling a just division of property at the end of a relationship. Unfortunately there’s no ‘silver bullet’ solution. So we’ve presented four options for reform in our paper, Dividing relationship property – Time for change? Te mātatoha rawa tokorau – Kua eke te wā?

1. Change the PRA’s definition of ‘property’ to include any interest under a trust through which it is both likely and permissible that the partner will receive a distribution of trust property. This may include a partner’s power of appointment if they can exercise it in their own favour. Option 1 would mean that qualifying discretionary beneficial interests could be treated like any other item of property under the PRA.

2. Change the PRA’s definition of ‘relationship property’ to include the value of trust property attributable to the relationship if the court considers it just. The focus of this option is on the character of the underlying trust assets rather than option 1’s focus on the nature of the partner’s beneficial interest in the trust. It seeks to bring trust property into the relationship property pool when that property has the character of relationship property. The court would, however, retain discretion to prevent sharing of the trust property when the partners have genuinely, and with informed consent, alienated the trust property for the benefit of third party beneficiaries.

3. Broaden section 44C to overcome its main limitations. This would include changes to remove the requirements that the disposition be of relationship property and that it must occur after the relationship began. Section 44C(2) would be expanded so that the court may order the trustees to pay to one partner a sum of money from the trust property or transfer to a partner any property from the trust. The matters the court must take into account in exercising its powers under section 44C(2) could also be expanded. These changes would give section 44C a much wider application.

4. A new provision modelled on section 182 of the Family Proceedings Act 1980. Section 182 has proven to be a useful provision that gives effect to the original expectations of people that settle trusts and deals with injustice that could otherwise be caused by changed circumstances. But it needs to be enlarged to apply to de facto relationships as well as marriages and civil unions, and there’s a case for bringing it into the PRA.

There will be varying degrees of support for, and opposition to, the options above. That’s why it’s so important for you as STEP members to have your say. Please visit our consultation website below and tell us how you think the law should be reformed. Part G of our issues paper is dedicated to what should happen to property held on trusts.

Reviewing the Property (Relationships) Act

Please email your submission to by 7 February 2018

Helen McQueen, Commissioner, New Zealand Law Commission

HMRC message regarding SA900 forms

Simon HodgesUpdate: 18 January

Further to the post last week alerting members to an issue with SA900 forms, HMRC has issued the following update:

‘In December 2017, we advised of an issue affecting a small number of SA900 forms filed electronically which resulted in some inaccurate calculations where there is a capital gain liability. The problem has now been resolved and calculations should now be correct for returns filed from 16 January 2018.

As previously advised, you should pay the tax that you calculated as being due by the payment deadline of 31 January. If you have already filed, your return will be checked and corrective action taken where necessary.’

Original blog:

STEP has been alerted by a member to an issue affecting the calculation of tax by HMRC of those who have submitted SA900 forms electronically. The issue was first spotted just before Christmas, when it appeared that the HMRC systems had been incorrectly calculating capital gains tax. The member was informed that the records would be amended within three working days.

Having contacted HMRC, STEP has been asked to disseminate the following message from HMRC to our members:

• We are aware of an issue affecting a small number of SA900 forms filed electronically. This is resulting in inaccurate calculations being issued in self-calculation cases where there is a capital gain liability. We are fixing this problem and expect it to be resolved very soon, and will update you when the matter has been resolved.

• If you have opted to self-calculate the liability due on your SA900, we ask you to use your self-calculated amount when you make a payment against your SA account by the due date.

• We are sorry for any inconvenience.

We will keep our members informed of progress.

Simon Hodges is Director of Policy at STEP.

2017: A brief editorial review

STEP Journal covers 2017As 2017 draws to a close, and with the final STEP Journal (Dec/Jan) having recently landed on your (or your office’s) doormat, this seems the perfect juncture take a quick look back on our member publications and bulletins this year.

Above are the varied, colourful covers of this year’s ten STEP Journal issues, each of which is an undertaking by itself; for example, readers would be surprised – and perhaps a little concerned – by the amount of discussion regarding the width of the pneumatic tubes on November’s ‘knowledge’ edition. President Trump narrowly missed an appearance on the cover of May’s US/Canada focus, but will surely take comfort that his proposed tax reforms were considered in that issue (‘Trump yet to play his cards‘🔒, by Bruce Zagaris TEP). Two covers particularly stood out for us: August/September’s attention-grabbing pop-art graphic, and March’s sensitive, understated design for that issue’s vulnerable client focus.

According to our web statistics, this year’s most popular STEP Journal feature so far (online) is ‘Will survivorship clauses survive?’🔒, in which John FitzGerald warns of the potential pitfalls of using such clauses when will-drafting in the UK. Our most-read Trust Quarterly Review (TQR) article of 2017 is ‘Signs of convergence‘🔒 by John Riches TEP, on the potential expansion of CRS disclosure.

STEP’s global outlook was reflected in the wide range of jurisdictions covered by this year’s articles, which covered developments in Australia, Austria, Bermuda, Brazil, the British Virgin Islands, Canada, the Cayman Islands, China, Colombia, the UK Crown Dependencies, Dubai, Estonia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Mauritius, New Zealand, Panama, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. Members can access all of this year’s issues of the STEP Journal and TQR, and those of previous years, at our back-issue archive.

All that content has been well-received by members, according to the results from this year’s STEP Member Satisfaction Survey: out of the six most valuable member benefits, the STEP Journal – our flagship title – was ranked highest, followed by the News Digests (second), Membership Newsletter Emails (third) and TQR, (fifth). The editorial team is delighted with these results, and will strive to do even better next year.

A huge amount of behind-the-scenes work goes into our editorial output. Following her promotion in December 2016 to Managing Editor of Publications, Blathain Iqbal has diligently managed the production of the STEP Journal and TQR to a consistently excellent standard – from planning and commissioning, to editing and production; a massive undertaking. Helen Swire, who joined in August as Editor, took over our News Digests and has quickly adapted to the subject matter, ably supported by Peter Mitchell, our longstanding news freelancer. We wish the very best to Colette Hagan, who recently departed for a new position; as Communications Executive, she was responsible for the Membership Newsletter Emails this year, and contributed to our other editorial streams. We look forward to welcoming, in January, an Assistant Editor to strengthen the team. Thanks also to Think, our publisher, which handles the production and commercial elements of the STEP Journal and TQR.

Finally, special mention goes to the members of our respective Editorial Boards for the STEP Journal and TQR, who provide invaluable expert feedback on articles before publication. Stan Barg TEP and David Wallace Wilson TEP have just stepped down, and we thank them for their commitment and help over many years.

In 2018, we will continue our efforts to ensure that our editorial content accurately reflects the breadth of jurisdictions and disciplines that STEP represents. The STEP Journal content calendar for 2018 is now available here, and if you have any feedback, suggestions or questions about our editorial output, please do remember to get in touch at

We wish our readers and members a very happy festive period.

John Read, Head of Editorial, STEP

What’s happening at STEP in England and Wales

Rita BhargavaWith the new year just round the corner, it seems time to reflect on what’s been happening at STEP in recent months.

STEP’s global Branch Chairs’ Assembly took place in London late last month, and was extremely well-attended. Its main focus was to ensure members feel they have an effective voice in developing STEP’s membership offer, and that it is delivered consistently and effectively, regardless of where people are based. One example of the changes coming is a standardised approach for routes to membership across the world, which will be introduced in February.

The BCA resulted in some invaluable feedback which will ensure that STEP develops for its members in an ever-changing environment and provides a consistent service across the board. It was also a great opportunity to meet and network with Branch Chairs and STEP colleagues from around the world.

Membership satisfaction questionnaire
The results of the 2017 members’ questionnaire were extremely positive, with over 2,000 members responding. Almost all (97 per cent) of members would recommend STEP to a colleague, 91 per cent of members said STEP had benefited their career (a 17 percentage point increase from 2008), and 93 per cent said STEP membership is considered important in the industry. It was particularly heartening to read members’ answers to ‘what STEP meant to them’ with some describing it as a ‘gold standard for our industry and a benchmark of excellence.’

Public awareness campaign
STEP’s public awareness campaign has also been highly successful. Six months on, our public-facing website has had over 60,000 page views, with 6,500 viewing its ‘Find a TEP’ facility, and more than 450 followers on its accompanying social media channels. STEP is working hard to increase content, and attract more influential followers.

As the year draws to a close, may I wish everyone a peaceful restful holiday season and a Happy New Year.

Rita Bhargava TEP, Chair, STEP England & Wales Regional Committee

STEP’s Special Interest Groups under the spotlight

SIG Spotlight Sessions 2017The end of November saw STEP Special Interest Groups’ (SIGs’) annual day of conferences, the ‘Spotlight Sessions’, held at the Montcalm Hotel in London and attracting over 300 international delegates.

The day started early with a breakfast-time Philanthropy Advisors SIG session. Outgoing chair Suzanne Reisman TEP welcomed attendees and contributed to a panel discussion, which also included Keyvan Ghavami of Act On Your Future, Jacqueline Lazare TEP of Royds Withy King and Julie Wynne TEP of Froriep. A lively discussion ensued, the takeaway point being that advisors are missing a business opportunity if they do not at least raise the issue of charitable giving with their clients.

The International Client SIG session began with Joseph Field TEP of Withers Bergman LLP delivering the keynote lecture on the changing landscape for international clients, quipping that events move so fast, that if you miss the news for 15 minutes, you can get completely behind. Tony Pitcher TEP of LGL Trustees Limited moderated a discussion on tax regimes, which included contributions from Luxembourg, Cyprus, the US, the UAE, Italy and Switzerland.

Bill Ahern TEP of Ahern Lawyers, David Russell QC TEP of Outer Temple Chambers and Wendy Martin of EY – Channel Islands discussed ‘attacks on intermediaries’ and practical issues in relation to the Common Reporting Standard (CRS). Wendy said that implementing CRS was a massive challenge, and depended hugely on how you interpret the law. She asked what might happen to all the data required, and what could go wrong, before pointing out the gaping contradiction with data protection legislation that mandates privacy. David expressed his concern that regulatory requirements are making it increasingly difficult to open a bank account and many entirely legitimate people are being excluded from the banking system, and Bill noted that in a number of countries there were very good reasons for not wanting the government to know about your financial affairs, not least personal security.

The day marked the official launch event of the newest of STEP’s SIGs, the Digital Assets SIG. Leigh Sagar TEP of New Square Chambers gave an introduction to digital assets and the issues they present for estate planning and administration. Together with the panel, he presented the audience with some quite alarming scenarios which left not a few squirming in their seats. If someone has your computer password, they could empty your bank account. If you let someone else use your Facebook account, you’ve committed an offence. If a family member dies, you may not be able to read their emails, or access their accounts. If your relative left online gambling debts that needed to be paid, but you didn’t have the passwords, you would not be able to settle their estate. The panel discussed a number of ways of ensuring passwords stay secure and yet are accessible to those who need them. One of the simplest ideas was to keep a list in a sealed envelope. The session concluded with discussions on electronic signatures and wills and the important, and growing, subject of cryptocurrencies and their taxation.

This year saw the Mental Capacity SIG and the Cross-Border Estates SIG partner on connecting sessions looking at cross-border capacity. Drawing the largest attendance of all the sessions, the panels comprised speakers from 12 jurisdictions providing a round-up of existing and new laws in each, followed by an active panel discussion.

The Business Families SIG session then explored the unique considerations an advisor must consider in an advisory position to a family business wishing to sell, as opposed to non-family entities. The audience heard first-hand accounts from family business owners Ian McKernan of Molecular Products Group and Alex Scott of Sandaire, alongside experts from the advisor community.

The final session was presented by the Contentious Trusts and Estates SIG and focused on the rules against self-dealing, fair dealing, no conflicts and their exceptions, considering the rules in light of recent decisions. Their session welcomed speaker Vicki Ammundsen TEP, who had come all the way from New Zealand.

Joanna Pegum, STEP PR & Media Executive

EU tax haven blacklist confirmed

Daniel NesbittAfter much debate and scrutiny, an EU blacklist of jurisdictions deemed not to be cooperative on tax matters has been agreed. The announcement came following a meeting of the EU’s Economic and Financial Affairs Council, attended by the finance ministers of each Member State.

The list, officially called the Common EU List of Non-Cooperative Jurisdictions, includes the following 17 territories:

• American Samoa
• Bahrain
• Barbados
• Grenada
• Guam
• Macau
• The Marshall Islands
• Mongolia
• Namibia
• Palau
• Panama
• Samoa
• South Korea
• St. Lucia
• Trinidad and Tobago
• Tunisia
• The United Arab Emirates.

Work on the list began in 2015. Originally 92 countries were screened for compliance with the EU’s transparency criteria, and earlier this year, 53 were warned that unless they changed their tax rules, they risked being included on the blacklist.

The full consequences for jurisdictions on the blacklist will be decided in the coming weeks, although the document outlining the blacklist suggest a number of defensive measures Member States could take against non-cooperative jurisdictions. States such as Luxembourg have been reported to favour not implementing any sanctions whilst others, including France, are thought to be advocating tough measures.

The list will be reviewed annually, with a report on the progress of jurisdictions expected before summer 2018. The EU has also announced that in the future the assessment criteria will be expanded to include the transparency of beneficial ownership information.

In addition to the blacklist, a so-called grey list of a further 47 territories has been drawn up. These jurisdictions have fallen short of the EU’s criteria but have also committed to raising their standards. If they fail to abide by their commitments they will face being placed on the blacklist.

STEP will continue to monitor the situation closely, particular in regards to what happens to those on the grey-list and any further sanctions, and will provide further updates when necessary.

Daniel Nesbitt, Policy Executive, STEP 

The UK Budget and donor benefit rules for charities

Emily Deane TEPThree years ago, the UK government’s Autumn Statement 2014 announced a review of the Gift Aid donor benefit rules with the intention of simplifying them. Following a call for evidence, it launched a consultation on 18 February 2016 setting out a range of options.

The responses helped develop specific proposals for reform, which were set out in a second consultation that ended on 3 February 2017. We have been informed that a summary of responses to the second consultation will be published on 1 December 2017.

This week the government announced that it would replace the current three-tier thresholds with two tiers. Under this reform, donors will be no worse off in terms of the value of benefits that charities can offer them, as the new limits will be, for every eligible donation, at least as generous as the current limit.

Current system

The current donor benefit limits (the relevant value test) is a set of monetary thresholds that determines the value of benefits that charities may give to donors as a consequence of a donation and still claim Gift Aid on that donation. These are:

• For donations up to £100, the value of the benefit can equate to a total of 25% of the donation.
• For donations between £100 and £1,000, the value of benefits is capped at £25.
• For donations over £1,000, the value of the benefit can equate to a total of 5% of the donation, up to a maximum annual benefit value of £2,500.

New system to be introduced

Under the new limits, the benefit threshold for the first £100 of the donation will remain at 25% of the amount of the donation. For larger donations, charities can offer an additional benefit to donors, up to 5% of the amount of the donation that exceeds £100. Some examples are provided in the table below. The total value of the benefit that a donor can receive remains at £2,500.

Extra statutory concessions

The government also announced that it will bring into legislation the four extra statutory concessions that currently operate in relation to the donor benefit rules.


Legislation to make all the changes will be introduced in Finance Bill 2018-2019 and will come into effect from 6 April 2019. Draft legislation will be published in 2018.

Examples of how the new benefit thresholds will work:

Size of donation (£) Existing relevant value test  – size of donation
determines level of benefit (£)
Planned relevant value test from April 2019 (£)
70 17.50 17.50
100 25 25
400 25 40 (25% of 100 (25) plus 5% of 400-100(15))
1,000 25 70 (25% of 100 (25) plus 5% of 1,000-100(45))
1,500 75 95 (25% of 100 (25) plus 5% of 1,500-100 (70))

STEP will continue to liaise with HMRC’s Charities Tax Team in this connection.

Emily Deane TEP is STEP Technical Counsel

STEP joins industry roundtable for Law Commission Q&A on wills

Emily Deane TEPSTEP was pleased to attend the latest Today’s Thought Focus Roundtable, hosted by Today’s Wills & Probate on 15 November 2017.

Prof Nick Hopkins and Spencer Clarke from the England & Wales Law Commission attended, and gave participants the opportunity to discuss its latest wills consultation.

The consultation paper contains 14 chapters and 64 questions, with varying proposals for reform. The most pertinent issues facing STEP members are the review of testamentary capacity, statutory wills, supported will-making, formalities, electronic wills, the protection of vulnerable testators, and interpretation and rectification provisions.

Key reforms that members welcome are:

• Modernisation of the language to make it more accessible to the public.
• An alignment between the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the Banks v Goodfellow test.
• Improving the statutory will application process to further protect elderly or frail testators.
• The implementation of supported will-making, provided that accredited individuals are used and the proper safeguards are incorporated.
• Enhanced protection measures for vulnerable testators.

The Commission confirmed that 177 responses have been received in response to the consultation, which concluded on 10 November 2017. More than 30 of these are thought to be from members of the public.

Prof Nick Hopkins commented: ‘This roundtable event, bringing together a diverse group of those involved in the writing of wills, will be very helpful for us in ensuring that our proposals for reform are grounded in the experience of those making a will, and engage with real-life concerns.’

The Law Commission will be analysing the responses in the coming months and will collate them into a report. In the meantime, it anticipates forming small working groups representative of the industry to focus on various areas of the draft legislation. It is hoped that the official report will be released by the end of 2018.

STEP will continue to keep you updated on this area of reform.

Emily Deane TEP is STEP Technical Counsel