HMRC invited STEP to attend a consultation on 30 March regarding the UK’s implementation of the EU Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (4AML), in particular in relation to the requirement to implement a central register of trusts.
The consultation was hosted by HMRC’s Policy Specialist, Tony Zagara, and focused on Article 31 – trust beneficial ownership. The UK trust register will be implemented on 26 June 2017 and will register trusts anywhere in the world with UK assets that generate tax consequences.
Information about the settlors, beneficiaries and trustees will be required to be reported in an annual submission and the information could be exchanged with law enforcement and competent authorities, but not the public. The focus group discussed the following key issues:
New registration system
The old paper registration system will be replaced with an online service for registration, which will be introduced in two tranches in June and September. The June online service will replace Form 41G for registering new trusts. Form 41G will be removed from HMRC’s website later this month.
The second online service will be introduced in September, which will allow users to make amendments to existing trusts online, further replacing the paper system.
The trustees will need to report on the trust on an annual basis, but only if it generates tax in that tax year. HMRC was unable to clarify whether, once a trust has been registered with a tax consequence, it is still necessary to submit annual updates in the following years if it has been dormant and has not generated any further tax consequences.
The panel agreed that annual reporting would probably not be necessary if there have been no changes since the first registration, however they agreed to check and revert back on this point.
Bare trusts will be excluded from reporting and new guidance will be produced on HMRC’s landing page in due course.
Letters of wishes
HMRC said trustees should report the identities of beneficiaries who are named in letters of wishes. Every person named in a letter of wishes would need to be identified, regardless of whether they have received a payment, unless they are included as a ‘class’ of beneficiary.
Practitioners were quick to point out that this could be an impossible task for trustees.
They explained to the HMRC panel that if beneficiaries have not received payments they cannot be associated with money laundering, and if they do receive a payment they will be reported anyway under the regulations. Letters of wishes can also be changed frequently and, more often than not, without the advisor’s knowledge.
HMRC defended the reporting obligation by suggesting that letters of wishes could be used as a loophole for criminals if they were excluded from the regulations.
The general consensus of the attendees was that the word ‘vested’ should be incorporated into the definition so that default beneficiaries in letter of wishes are excluded from being reported on unless they receive a payment.
HMRC will be feeding back the discussions from the consultation to its legal team to redraft the regulations.
HMRC’s consultation paper was published on its website (see below) and the consultation closes on 12 April. HMRC is requesting responses as soon as possible since there is a short time frame following the closing date. If you have any drafting points to be incorporated in STEP’s consultation response, please email [email protected] by 10 April.