Think you’re covered with a statutory notice? Watch out for a DWP claim

Emily Deane TEPIf you work in the probate field you will be very familiar with the process of submitting a statutory advertisement, (under the Trustee Act 1925 for England, or the Trustee Act 1958 in Northern Ireland) in The Gazette and a local newspaper, following the receipt of the grant of representation.

A statutory notice is a published advertisement giving notice of the personal representatives’ intention to distribute the deceased’s estate. The objective is to ensure that sufficient effort has been made to locate creditors, prior to distributing the estate to the beneficiaries, whilst safeguarding the executor or trustee from becoming personally liable from any unidentified creditors. If a notice is not submitted and a creditor subsequently makes a claim after the estate has been distributed, then the executor or trustee may become personally liable for any unidentified debts.

The notice gives creditors and anyone else who may have an ‘interest’ in the estate up to two months to make a claim via the personal representatives, although they do not affect the right of certain people to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Once the notices have expired the personal representatives may then distribute the estate, knowing that they will not be personally liable should claims or debts of the deceased become payable. Therefore, it is prudent and good practice that no significant distributions should be made from the estate before the statutory notices have expired.

An exception for the DWP

However, not all advisors are aware that if you have already paid the beneficiaries their entitlements from the estate, and you subsequently receive a letter from the UK Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) about a claim, then you are not protected by the statutory notice.

In these circumstances you will need to contact the beneficiaries to explain that some money may need to be reimbursed to the DWP, and that they should return the money they have been given, pending the outcome of the enquiry. Clearly this scenario causes dissatisfaction for the beneficiaries, as well as delay and potential costs to the advisor.

Terry Moore TEP of Burstalls in Hull initially brought this to STEP’s attention. STEP’s UK Practice Committee has subsequently raised the lack of awareness around this issue and written to the DWP pointing out the difficulties it presents, and the length of time it often takes to receive a repayment request. STEP will report back in due course.

Emily Deane TEP is STEP Technical Counsel

Top 10 FATCA/CRS reporting issues

Top 10 issuesWith reporting now underway in the UK for both FATCA (the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) and the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), STEP has been liaising with HMRC on some of the more common reporting issues:

1. The financial institution (FI) has to re-register and is not able to view previous returns on the portal, because login details are unknown following staff changes.

Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) portal login details should be held securely and known only by those who need them. The FI should ensure that there is an appropriate procedure to maintain access to their portal. A pseudo email account might be an appropriate solution, providing the FI has robust security and data protection safeguards in place.

2. The FI misunderstands what constitutes an undocumented account.

HMRC has advised that FIs are wrongly reporting accounts as ‘undocumented’ when a self-certification requested from an account holder has not been completed. This has led to numerous accounts being erroneously reported with a GB resident country code. The definition of an undocumented account can be found at IEIM403100.

3. The FI makes a submission using the XML schema which is rejected due to inappropriate re-use of MessageRef, FIReturnRef and AccountRef.

The schema guidance gives comprehensive advice on use of references and can be found here.

4. The FI reports accounts where the account holder is not resident in a reportable jurisdiction.

Individuals who are not resident in a reportable jurisdiction (see IEIM402340) should not be reported. Some jurisdictions which have signed up to CRS are non-reciprocal, and some which have signed up are not yet ready to receive exchanges.

5. The FI reports accounts as being NPFFIs but resident country code is not US.

The term non-participating foreign financial institution (NPFFI) is for FATCA only, in respect of years up to 2016, and not applicable for CRS purposes. If used, the resident country code should be US.

6. The FI reports accounts that are excluded accounts and therefore non-reportable, such as registered pension schemes.

A full list of excluded accounts can be found at IEIM 401720.

7. The FI reports persons who are not reportable.

Under CRS, corporations with regularly traded stock and related entities are not reportable account holders, nor are governmental entities, international organisations, central banks or financial institutions. A list of exemptions to the term ‘specified US person’ under FATCA can be found in Article 1 (gg) of the UK-US Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA).

8. The FI reports joint individual accounts as entity accounts.

A jointly-held individual account is not an entity account and the account information to be exchanged can be found at IEIM402140. However, partnerships, including general partnerships, are treated as entities, irrespective of their legal form (see IEIM400860).

9. The AEOI enquiry helpline is for financial institutions only.

HMRC requests that you don’t share details of the AEOI enquiry helpline with your account holders. This inundates its AEOI filing team and prevents it from being able to assist FIs with their reporting obligations.

10. The FI leaves filing to the last minute.

Filing submissions sufficiently in advance of the 31 May 2018 deadline allows FIs extra time to deal with any unexpected issues such as missing information, or inaccurate XML schema, that might lead to the submission being rejected.

STEP will continue to consult with HMRC on ongoing technical issues.

Emily Deane TEP is STEP Technical Counsel

The Gift Aid tax gap

Emily Deane TEPSTEP is working with HMRC on a Gift Aid working group set up to explore options to maximise the amount of Gift Aid that charities can claim on donations, together with ways of increasing customer understanding of the system and how it works. HMRC is also investigating opportunities to improve the way that Higher Rate Relief is claimed; and whether it works as intended, is future-proof and provides the relief in the best way possible.

HMRC began the process by instructing an external research company to look into charitable giving and the use of Gift Aid. Its specific objectives were to estimate the value of the Gift Aid tax gap and unclaimed Gift Aid, and develop an understanding of correct and incorrect behaviours among donors.

The report has found that 25 per cent of the value of donations made in the 12 months prior to interview did not have Gift Aid added to them where the donor was eligible, contributing up to GBP560 million to the value of unclaimed Gift Aid. This represents potential missed income for charities and is generated by eligible donors who only sometimes (30 per cent), or never (18 per cent), add Gift Aid to their donations. It is mostly driven by a lack of opportunity for donors to add Gift Aid, and to a lesser degree, by failing to understand what Gift Aid is, or where they are eligible to add it.

The report also finds that 8 per cent of the value of donations had Gift Aid incorrectly added to them by ineligible donors, generating a Gift Aid tax gap of up to GBP180 million. This is caused by ineligible donors who always (5 per cent) or sometimes (10 per cent) add Gift Aid, partly where they do not understand the relief, and partly where they misunderstand what it means to be a taxpayer. This has resulted in donors who are not taxpayers attempting to add Gift Aid, where they are not eligible to do so.

Better understanding of these issues would lead to a drop in Gift Aid claims among ineligible donors, and a rise in claims among eligible donors. It was recommended to provide information about (1) Gift Aid eligibility criteria (ie clarifying what it means to be a UK taxpayer, and that the donor must be one to add Gift Aid to their donation) at every opportunity, and (2) the benefits of Gift Aid at the point of donation; to help effect the change.

The report, Charitable giving and Gift Aid research, is published today, accompanied by a press release issued by HM Treasury and HMRC.

If you have any questions or suggestions please email STEP’s Technical Counsel – Emily.Deane@step.org.

Emily Deane TEP is STEP Technical Counsel

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 trustees, NOT agents, will be liable for penalties

HMRCUpdate 23 March: HMRC has updated its guidance to clarify that if a penalty is payable for late registration, it will be the burden of the lead trustee and not the agent.

We received the following communication from HMRC on 5 March 2018:

‘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 the lead trustees 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 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 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.’

It had been unclear, following this communication, whether the penalties would apply to the person dealing with the trust’s registration affairs, whether that be the lead trustee or the agent. HMRC has now confirmed that the lead trustee will become liable for the penalty, and not the agent.

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 pra@lawcom.govt.nz 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 editorial@step.org.

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 advisingfamilies.org 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