STEP moves towards a new qualifications structure

Nigel RaceSTEP is introducing a new look to its qualifications in July this year with the launch of the Qualifications Framework. We will be giving more detail over the coming months in the STEP Journal and other channels, but it might be useful to give some background on the drivers for this change, and the resulting benefits that we envisage. As highlighted in the STEP Journal last year, the STEP Qualifications Framework creates a structure within which STEP can place its qualifications, together with content from other providers such as universities and professional bodies, and assign a credit value that can be counted towards a level of membership. This offers close alignment, therefore, between qualifications and the new membership levels, those levels being Student, Affiliate, Technician and TEP.

The qualification system is simple and enables STEP to standardise entry requirements and create flexibility in how an individual can achieve membership of STEP through examination. More than this, it enables STEP to develop a lifelong learning offering that  goes well beyond simple qualifications. Already graduates of the International and England & Wales Diplomas can study for a BSc in Management, Trusts and Estates with Manchester University. Last year saw the first cohort coming through this new degree programme and the 40 STEP graduates proved the most successful out of all the other professional bodies involved. STEP members will, in time, be able to gain even higher level (Masters +) academic qualifications through STEP university partnerships.

The impact of the new Qualifications Framework will be mild initially and relevant particularly to new entrants to STEP. However, existing students will automatically be credited for the exams they have taken once the new framework is launched and those with sufficient credits will be upgraded automatically. A student who has the appropriate combination of STEP certificate, prior qualification and experience will be able to enter the Diploma programme and, once they have passed two papers, be eligible to become a STEP Technician.

In England & Wales and Scotland initially, as the modular approach is being piloted, students will have a couple of optional routes to a STEP Diploma, namely the Will Preparation route and the Tax and Estate Planning route. Those students and affiliates with the STEP Advanced Certificates in Will Preparation or UK Tax for International Clients will be able to credit these, retrospectively and in the future, towards a STEP Diploma and application for TEP. Next year we hope to open this up further with the STEP Advanced Certificate in Advising Vulnerable Clients creating a third specialist stream. Once we are confident the system is working then we will look to extend options to other STEP regions.

STEP’s Qualified Practitioner route, too, which currently requires the submission of three 5,000 word essays, is also likely to be brought into the Qualifications Framework in due course. OverQualifications Framework time we hope that the new Qualifications Framework starts to achieve a range of outcomes for STEP members and prospective members:

  • coherence and simplicity of qualifications across borders
  • wider access to STEP membership for appropriate groups
  • a tight match between qualifications and the skills and knowledge that employers require
  • a framework for lifelong learning
  • close and productive relationships with non-STEP providers of learning.

 

The benefits of this new Qualifications Framework will be incremental initially but potentially significant over time.

We will be supplying further information over the next few months as we move towards the July launch date, but if you have any questions please email pd@step.org

Nigel Race is STEP’s Director of Professional Development.

STEP News Digest wrap-up – April’s top stories

Welcome to the wrap-up of the top ten most popular stories in the STEP online Digests throughout April. In case you missed them, here are the top STEP News Digest stories most clicked by our readers.

Probate court fees to rocket: The government is going ahead with dramatic increases to court fees. From 22 April the cost of a probate application via a solicitor will rise from GBP45 to GBP155, though Court of Protection fees for some simpler cases will be cut later this year.

Guidance Notes: Trusts (Capital and Income) Act 2013: STEP’s UK Practice Committee has produced a guidance note to explain the impact on practitioners of the Trusts (Capital and Income) Act 2013.

Changes to this year’s trust and estate return: HMRC has published a summary of changes made in the 2013-14 trust and estate tax return.

End of PPR election for UK-resident second home owners: A consultation document has appeared on the government’s previously announced plans to charge capital gains tax (CGT) on non-residents’ property disposals. Unexpectedly, the proposals now also envisage the abolition of UK residents’ right to choose their principal private residence for CGT relief purposes.

Growing importance of the digital legacy: Testators are being advised to leave clear instructions about their ‘digital legacies’ after their death. The term encompasses social media accounts, computer games, investments and other online accounts, and even Bitcoins.

Rising liabilities tempt families into desperate avoidance measures: The Telegraph describes some tactics being used by families – especially in south-east England – to avoid heavy inheritance tax charges. They include lifetime gifts of the family home, investment in AIM shares and purchase of farmland – although accountancy firm Saffery Champness is warning landowners that HMRC is about to apply far greater scrutiny to applications for agricultural property.

End of PPR election for UK-resident second home owners: A consultation document has appeared on the government’s previously announced plans to charge capital gains tax (CGT) on non-residents’ property disposals. Unexpectedly, the proposals now also envisage the abolition of UK residents’ right to choose their principal private residence for CGT relief purposes.

Practitioners puzzled by FATCA requirements: UK practitioners are still finding it hard to accept that they may have to register trusts with the US Internal Revenue Service even where there are no US connections. However guidance issued by STEP and the Law Society concerning the UK-US FATCA agreement leaves little room for doubt.

One in ten estates will be paying IHT by 2018: The proportion of estates liable for inheritance tax (IHT) will quadruple from just 2.6 per cent in the 2009-10 tax year to 10 per cent in 2018-19, according to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. IHT liabilities will then take a bigger share of the national income than at any time in the past 45 years – unless the tax is reformed.

Growing opposition to HMRC’s proposed new charging powers: Several influential professional organisations have now expressed strong objections to the Finance Bill’s creation of two draconian new enforcement powers for HMRC.

The STEP Industry News Digests provide a round-up of relevant industry news for trust and estate practitioners and other professionals in the wealth management sector. They provide brief summaries of topical news stories gathered from news providers internationally, providing a quick reference for busy practitioners to all the relevant news and issues. The News Digests also feature job listings from our recruitment site and list local STEP branch events and conferences. STEP’s digest services include twice weekly UK and Wealth Structuring (international) editions as well as a bi-weekly North America Digest focusing on the US, Canada and Mexico, and a Latin America Digest.

To subscribe to STEP’s digest services you will need to first register here:http://www.step.org/register