STEP – the reality

STEP logo iconThere have been a number of recent press articles about the role of STEP, a leading professional body, in the wealth management industry. Some of these articles have presented a highly distorted view of STEP and the activities of our members.

STEP members, known as TEPs, spend their professional lives helping families plan for their futures: from drafting a will or advising family businesses, to helping international families and protecting vulnerable family members who may have mental capacity issues or other forms of disability. With around 20,000 members worldwide, TEPs are the acknowledged specialists in giving advice to families in these areas.

Some TEPs focus on servicing very wealthy families, often with a range of international interests, who need expert advice to manage their affairs to ensure all tax and legal requirements are met in multiple countries. Most TEPs, however, are engaged in helping ordinary families deal with everyday problems. All are committed to the high technical and professional standards that STEP promotes and insists on from all its members.

Internationally, STEP has an important role to play in improving professionalism among all those working with families in areas such as inheritance planning and the care of vulnerable relatives. We are thus proud to be actively involved in helping raise standards in jurisdictions where there have to date been few, if any, equivalent professional bodies.

STEP also works constructively and transparently with a range of policymakers. As acknowledged global experts in their fields, STEP members have an important role to play in ensuring that policy development is informed by the practical experience of professionals working in the relevant area. STEP’s responses to official consultations are all publicly available on the STEP website (see www.step.org/consultation-tracker/1).

George Hodgson is Interim Chief Executive of STEP

International Tax Compliance (Client Notification) Regulations

Emily DeaneThe UK’s International Tax Compliance (Client Notification) Regulations have been amended and will come into force on 30 September 2016.

The regulations create an obligation on financial institutions (banks, building societies, insurers, fund managers, wealth managers and professionals that offer tax or financial advice or services) to notify their clients about the tax information that HMRC will receive about their offshore affairs under international agreements.

Financial institutions are defined in the same way as in the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) and capture trusts that are financial institutions, however all charities are specifically excluded and will not have to notify their grant recipients.

Clients must be notified that:

  • Tax information must be shared with HMRC regarding their overseas assets under the Common Reporting Standard (CRS),
  • There are opportunities for clients to voluntarily disclose information about their overseas tax affairs if they need to; and
  • There are likely to be sanctions for those who do not come forward.

The notifications are targeted at practitioners who provide advice about offshore assets or income which is not disclosed in their clients’ tax returns. The affected clients are UK tax residents for whom the practitioner has provided offshore advice or services for a period of up to one year, or up to three years ending on 6 April 2016 (depending on the nature of the advice given).

While the wording of HMRC’s notifications has not been finalised yet, the notifications must be sent to clients by 31 August 2017 with a covering letter from the practitioner using set wording provided by HMRC.

HMRC has no objection to notifications being sent out to every client in the firm’s database if identifying individuals is too time-consuming or onerous. Failure to do so by 31 August 2017 may result in a £3,000 fine.

STEP will provide an update once further guidance from HMRC is available.

 

Emily Deane TEP, STEP Technical Counsel

How will Brexit affect the third sector?

Brexit Puzzle Pieces STEP’s Charities UK and Philanthropy Advisors Special Interest Groups hosted a seminar on Charities and Brexit on 6 September presented by STEP members Ed Powles TEP and Tom Dumont TEP and chaired by Suzanne Reisman TEP, writes Emily Deane.

According to those in the charity sector there was an immediate drop in charitable donations after Brexit, but this proved only temporary before it stabilised. However politicians and economists are struggling to gauge what will be different following Brexit. Ed Powles pointed out: ‘If we invoke Article 50 it will be biggest de-merger in history.’

So what are the main points of concern for those who work in the third sector?

Tax reliefs – UK law is vulnerable to significant legislative change following Brexit. EU law currently makes it possible for British citizens to donate to EU charities and claim tax relief. Likewise EU members can donate to the UK and obtain tax relief. European charities can also use UK tax relief in the form of Gift Aid. It seems very unlikely that this regime will continue and that the EU will extend charitable exemptions to the UK after we leave.

EU funding – UK charities receive up to GBP300 million in donations directly from the EU every year, representing a significant contribution towards vulnerable beneficiaries and vital research. It seems highly unlikely that this will continue. There will inevitably be a decrease in grants available through the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Economic instability – the uncertainty that people are facing in their jobs and personal investments means that they are far less likely to make donations from their disposable income. In addition, charities that depend upon profit from their investments may have major concerns about how the economy will affect them. Having said that, we have survived recessions before and charities have managed to endure.

Legislative change – it is unclear how Brexit will affect charity law. The UK may be compelled to repeal laws that we were obliged to adopt from the EU. Will we modify the European Union Act, and if so, what will we keep and what will we discard? There could be a serious impact on the UK if we re-visit employment, regulatory and data protection laws. Will there be further, onerous due diligence and money laundering requirements imposed upon charities? It seems almost inevitable.

In these pre-Brexit days it is proving very difficult for tax practitioners to advise their clients regarding charitable gifts, cross border gifts and property across Europe. The future seems precarious for the third sector at this stage and the impact over the next few years is relatively uncertain.

John Low CEO of Charities Aid Foundation comments on the future of charities following Brexit, ‘Britain’s culture of charitable giving and the important work of our international charities are hugely significant to how we are viewed by other nations. As Britain starts a new chapter in our approach to international relations, charities must be given the chance to play a leading role.’

STEP is hosting two relevant Special Interest Group events in the next few weeks, with discounted rates of attendance for SIG Members at both:

 

Emily Deane TEP, STEP Technical Counsel