STEP England & Wales Biannual Statement – July 2016

Alex ElphinstonWhatever may have happened over the last six months has no doubt been dwarfed by the EU referendum result and the seismic political fallout and current uncertainty on so many fronts – political, economic and financial – before we begin to consider the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

STEP is monitoring the situation closely and is in discussions with other relevant professional bodies as well as maintaining lines of communication with civil servants and the like to do all we can to ensure our and our clients’ interests are taken into account. On this last point I hope you have seen the weekly digest of 30 June asking for comments as to concerns and opportunities. Please do respond to this.

While Brexit may be uppermost in our minds at the moment (closely followed perhaps for some by the perennial debate about the ability or otherwise of our sports players to perform), much else has been happening.

More than 300 attendees assembled for STEP’s second Global Congress in Amsterdam at the end of June. It was tremendous that the event was a sell out. Delegates came from 44 countries – a true sign of the global nature of the issues we currently face in our industry.

The focus of this Global Congress was ‘advising families across generations’ with sessions offered on private international law, conflicts, and the changing definition of ‘family’ on the first day, with the second day focusing on transparency, and looking especially at how members – as experts in their fields – can use their knowledge and skills to become part of the solution, informing the process and helping governments, the OECD and others to understand how trust and other structures work, and encouraging dialogue on issues that are critical to our world.All in all, the event was a great success.

And back in March we held the Branch Chairs’ Assembly (BCA), which was well supported with members of the Scottish regional committee in attendance as well recognising the many areas of mutual interest and common concerns at branch level. Members of the committee in Northern Ireland were also invited but unable to attend.

Particular themes coming out were:

  • The benefits of a central resource of the names of speakers and topics that branches have held to assist other branches in compiling their programme. STEP is looking at how best to provide such a resource.
  • Creating a higher public profile for STEP. This second point was consistent with feedback from the Leaders’ Forum last December and will be picked up in the ‘Your STEP’ initiative by STEP Worldwide before filtering back to the regional level for practical outworking.

We were fortunate to have Senior Judge Lush of the Court of Protection as our guest speaker who gave a potted history of some of the important court decisions relating to damages awards before suggesting that STEP provide qualifications for Deputies and case workers as there is no other body of which he is aware that is providing this on a holistic basis. We are looking into this possibility in conjunction with the Mental Capacity special interest group.

As it transpired, this was David Harvey’s last BCA and we wish him well for his future and thank him for his significant input to STEP over his 15 years as Chief Executive.

As always there have been numerous consultations and other issues over the last six months where STEP and the various committees have been actively involved – including the proposed hike in Probate Court fees, the Mossack Fonseca data leak, contributing to the revised code of Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation (PCRT) and discussions with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) on some of their proposed changes. And this is before acknowledging the various different courses, webinars and other training and education events that have been organised across a wide range of subjects.

This will be my last report as chair of the regional committee and I want to thank all the staff at the STEP office for their tremendous support and enthusiasm over such a wide range of issues without which we would all be much the poorer and my role would have been impossible. I have also appreciated the dedication of members and others who give of their time and expertise on the various committees to help keep us up to speed on all the legislative changes (who can forget FATCA?!) as well as forging links with government departments and other influential organisations here and further afield. As a result STEP has often ensured a better understanding of the practical issues and seen changes made.

Finally my congratulations to all those who have been shortlisted as Private Client Awards finalists and the students who recently passed exams as well as those who won awards in the inaugural Worldwide Excellence Awards. The future of STEP should be in safe hands!

 

Alex Elphinston TEP is Chair of STEP’s England and Wales Regional Committee

Where there’s no will, there’s a way…

Alexandra BraunSTEP’s Global Congress, coming up in Amsterdam this summer, will be looking into a number of topical issues, including how wealth is being passed on death to the next generations.

Wills do not represent the only way in which wealth is being transferred on death. A person can use a variety of other mechanisms, including donationes mortis causa, joint tenancies, trusts, life insurance contracts, and nominations in pension and retirement plans.

Indeed, today a significant proportion of wealth is being passed through means other than wills and intestacy. This is not just due to tax considerations but to speed up the transfer on death and to shelter assets from claims of creditors and dependants.

This development questions the role and the scope current succession law rules are having in the transfer of wealth, as many of these mechanisms are not subject to the same policy driven rules applicable to wills. Thus, much of the transmission of wealth is no longer governed by the rules of succession.

In the US, these modes of transfer are grouped under the category of ‘will-substitutes’, that is to say instruments that allow for a transfer of wealth outside conventional probate procedures. Although much has been written about the effect of the use of ‘will-substitutes’ in the US, little is generally known about developments in other jurisdictions. And yet, ‘will-substitutes’ are becoming increasingly popular in many jurisdictions.

The aims of this talk are to provide a comparative overview of the most common instruments used, especially in the US and in Europe, and to explore why people transfer their wealth through alternative devices.

We will also explore the potential problems their use is creating for the operation of current succession laws and discuss the consequences that ensue for creditors as well as family members and dependants.

 

Alexandra Braun, Associate Professor of Law, University of Oxford.

Are all countries ready for automatic information exchange?

Philip MarcoviciSTEP’s Global Congress, coming up in Amsterdam this summer, will be looking into a number of important and controversial issues, not least in the panel session I’m chairing on the second day.

Joining me will be the Rt Hon Clare Short, Chair of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Jeremy Carver CBE of Transparency International and Philip Kerfs, the Head of the International Co-operation Unit of the OECD.

We’ll be discussing whether all countries are ready for automatic information exchange – and many fear they are not. Corruption, misuse of tax information and many more issues are rife in more countries than any governmental organisation is able to admit.

Will automatic information exchange through the CRS (Common Reporting Standard) and other initiatives actually disadvantage those developing countries most in need of tax revenues? Will we see entrepreneurs making a rush for the exit in some countries, even though they are the ones most needed for their domestic economies? Have developed countries pushed their own tax enforcement agendas, without properly considering the economic consequences to those countries most in need?

We’ll be asking if the wealth management industry and legacy financial centres have themselves to blame for where we are. We will though, also be looking for solutions, and it may not be too late to consider and implement alternative approaches to tax compliance.

Should STEP and its members be more concerned about inequality of income and wealth and the consequences of backward-looking attempts to maintain secrecy in and around opaque trust and other structures?

Is the US, as a non-participant in CRS, the only country that is positioned to help – even though it may benefit its own financial services industry in the process? Have wealthy individuals and entities served by STEP members been too silent and self-absorbed, ignoring the needs of those in their communities?

Are professional services firms profiting from the complexity of FATCA and CRS more than the countries that need tax revenues to address urgent needs of those living in poverty? Is it true that tax compliance can overcome global poverty, and if that is true, how can we ensure that this is achieved?

We’ll be discussing real problems and identifying possible solutions. Do join us – it’s not a session to be missed.

 

Philip Marcovici TEP, Offices of Philip Marcovici, Hong Kong

Why should you go to STEP’s inaugural Global Congress?

Hélène Anne Lewis

Hélène Anne Lewis

As Chair of STEP Worldwide I look forward to welcoming a large number of my fellow members to the inaugural STEP Global Congress

This event offers an opportunity for all STEP members from all 80 jurisdictions and all 105 branches and chapters to connect, share ideas and enlarge our personal networks.

Congress will serve as a platform for the discussion and development of the thought leadership that will drive the Society forward in the years ahead. It will offer superior technical learning in an environment geared towards productive and highly valuable networking opportunities for members across jurisdictions.

International political imperatives are proving to be enormously challenging to all professionals who practice in the wealth management and estate planning sector. The Global Congress therefore aims to offer a forum for interacting with the world’s foremost advocates for our professions. They have spent recent years interfacing with the European Parliament, EU Member States, the OECD, the FATF and the UK government in order to improve the implementation of measures aimed primarily at winning tax revenues for their constituencies; which so dramatically affect the business models and careers of STEP members around the world.

STEP’s Special Interest Groups, which now form an exciting part of our member service offering, will host several sessions on their separate specialisations and stage opportunities for recruiting new members while offering existing members the chance for face-to-face encounters — some for the first time. If you are passionate about an area of trust and estate practice covered by a Special Interest Group, I strongly encourage you to use the Global Congress as a chance to find out how you can benefit professionally and play a role shaping the field.congress

Our long-term objective is for the Congress to be firmly established as an important forum for STEP – held biannually and offering every worldwide member an opportunity to interact and be a part of the decision-making discussions that guide and inform STEP’s direction and policy.

What will you take away from Congress? I look forward to seeing you in Miami.