It is a pleasure to be writing to you for the first time as Chair of STEP’s England & Wales Regional Committee to let you know about the work we are doing on behalf of members in the region.
We’ve been performing well, with 93% of member renewals for 2017 received and 350 new members in the last six months. We’ve also seen more than 100 enrolments on STEP’s England and Wales Diploma in that time.
From a practice perspective, the recent political turmoil has impacted on our sector in various ways. Two issues of note were the draft legislation on the taxation of non-domiciliaries and offshore trusts and the probate fees debacle – both of which placed enormous strain on practitioners. STEP has been active on both fronts on behalf of members and their clients.
Finance Act 2017
The proposed changes to the UK’s taxation of non-domiciliary rules, which were due to come into force on 6 April 2017, were extremely complex and left a number of areas of uncertainty, which STEP’s UK Technical Committee highlighted to HMRC. The answers received were then collated in a Guidance Note for members’ information. However, the proposed changes were dropped from Finance Bill 2017 (now Finance Act 2017) to enable the bill to get through Parliament ahead of the General Election.
We’ve now heard that the proposed changes will resurface in a new Finance Bill after the Summer Recess, and will be backdated to 6 April 2017. This brings some welcome certainty, but it should not be forgotten that there are further changes on the horizon for non-doms and offshore trusts, which may be brought in later this year or next, so any planning will need to factor these in.
The proposed increase in probate fees announced earlier this year placed a huge strain on both probate registries and practitioners as everyone struggled to be ready for the May deadline. STEP was extremely active on this issue from the outset, expressing concern about the fairness, practicality and legality of the proposed increase, and obtaining a legal opinion from Richard Drabble QC, which stated that an increase in fees on the scale suggested could not be achieved without fresh legislation. You can read an overview of STEP’s activity here.
When the probate fee increase was put aside ahead of the General Election, we all breathed a sigh of relief. But we are not out of the woods yet: rumour has it that this may resurface, and we are keeping a close eye on the situation.
Politics aside, a lot has been happening at STEP in recent months.
It was great to see the launch in May of a new campaign to raise awareness of STEP and TEPs among UK consumers. A key part of this is the launch of www.advisingfamilies.org – a public-facing website providing information on issues relating to the services STEP members provide. It’s backed by a digital campaign – ‘You can talk to a TEP’ – to raise awareness and drive people to the website.
Many members and their firms have got involved, contributing content and engaging with the campaign on social media. If you haven’t yet had a look at the website, I’d recommend you do so. You can read more about the campaign and how to get involved here.
Work has also been underway to develop a Speaker Register, which branches and central event organisers will be able to use to find speakers for their events. This exciting new development offers members the opportunity to put themselves forward for speaking opportunities. More than 300 members have already registered their interest in speaking via their Online Profile, so if you want to feature on this, make sure you register today.
So – a busy six months; with lots more to come, no doubt, as the year progresses. I look forward to reporting on that in December, but for now I hope you get at least a little respite over the summer to recharge for what’s ahead.
Rita Bhargava TEP
Chair, STEP England & Wales Regional Committee