2017: A brief editorial review

STEP Journal covers 2017As 2017 draws to a close, and with the final STEP Journal (Dec/Jan) having recently landed on your (or your office’s) doormat, this seems the perfect juncture take a quick look back on our member publications and bulletins this year.

Above are the varied, colourful covers of this year’s ten STEP Journal issues, each of which is an undertaking by itself; for example, readers would be surprised – and perhaps a little concerned – by the amount of discussion regarding the width of the pneumatic tubes on November’s ‘knowledge’ edition. President Trump narrowly missed an appearance on the cover of May’s US/Canada focus, but will surely take comfort that his proposed tax reforms were considered in that issue (‘Trump yet to play his cards‘🔒, by Bruce Zagaris TEP). Two covers particularly stood out for us: August/September’s attention-grabbing pop-art graphic, and March’s sensitive, understated design for that issue’s vulnerable client focus.

According to our web statistics, this year’s most popular STEP Journal feature so far (online) is ‘Will survivorship clauses survive?’🔒, in which John FitzGerald warns of the potential pitfalls of using such clauses when will-drafting in the UK. Our most-read Trust Quarterly Review (TQR) article of 2017 is ‘Signs of convergence‘🔒 by John Riches TEP, on the potential expansion of CRS disclosure.

STEP’s global outlook was reflected in the wide range of jurisdictions covered by this year’s articles, which covered developments in Australia, Austria, Bermuda, Brazil, the British Virgin Islands, Canada, the Cayman Islands, China, Colombia, the UK Crown Dependencies, Dubai, Estonia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Mauritius, New Zealand, Panama, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. Members can access all of this year’s issues of the STEP Journal and TQR, and those of previous years, at our back-issue archive.

All that content has been well-received by members, according to the results from this year’s STEP Member Satisfaction Survey: out of the six most valuable member benefits, the STEP Journal – our flagship title – was ranked highest, followed by the News Digests (second), Membership Newsletter Emails (third) and TQR, (fifth). The editorial team is delighted with these results, and will strive to do even better next year.

A huge amount of behind-the-scenes work goes into our editorial output. Following her promotion in December 2016 to Managing Editor of Publications, Blathain Iqbal has diligently managed the production of the STEP Journal and TQR to a consistently excellent standard – from planning and commissioning, to editing and production; a massive undertaking. Helen Swire, who joined in August as Editor, took over our News Digests and has quickly adapted to the subject matter, ably supported by Peter Mitchell, our longstanding news freelancer. We wish the very best to Colette Hagan, who recently departed for a new position; as Communications Executive, she was responsible for the Membership Newsletter Emails this year, and contributed to our other editorial streams. We look forward to welcoming, in January, an Assistant Editor to strengthen the team. Thanks also to Think, our publisher, which handles the production and commercial elements of the STEP Journal and TQR.

Finally, special mention goes to the members of our respective Editorial Boards for the STEP Journal and TQR, who provide invaluable expert feedback on articles before publication. Stan Barg TEP and David Wallace Wilson TEP have just stepped down, and we thank them for their commitment and help over many years.

In 2018, we will continue our efforts to ensure that our editorial content accurately reflects the breadth of jurisdictions and disciplines that STEP represents. The STEP Journal content calendar for 2018 is now available here, and if you have any feedback, suggestions or questions about our editorial output, please do remember to get in touch at editorial@step.org.

We wish our readers and members a very happy festive period.

John Read, Head of Editorial, STEP

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

Cross-border incapacity on a flood tide?

In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Brutus famously tells Cassius:

‘There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures’.

In the May 2013 issue of the STEP Journal I described some of the background and history of the Hague Convention XXXV of 13 January 2000 on the International Protection of Adults (Convention XXXV), which has now been ratified by the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Scotland and Switzerland. Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland and the UK (excluding Scotland) have all signed but not yet ratified. On 10 July 2013 Austria also signed.

Many of us think that it is high time that England and Wales ratify Convention XXXV. We find it impossible to explain to clients why it is not fully in force and available to help, in what are usually extremely distressing and stressful circumstances.

The EU is encouraging member states to ratify and more are doing so. Ireland is now following the current and is set to overtake its backward neighbour.  On 15 July 2013, the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill (no 83) was published in Dublin, which will bring Irish capacity law into the 21st Century and enable ratification.

If more countries were to ratify Convention XXXV, the position would often be more straightforward. The UK Ministry of Justice should be ashamed and embarrassed that England and Wales has still not yet done so.

Catch the flood tide and avoid being bound in shallows and in miseries.

Richard Frimston TEP, Chair of STEP EU Committee and Co-Chair of the STEP Public Policy Committee