Trustees, have you got your LEIs?

Emily Deane TEPThe Global Legal Entity Identification Foundation (GLEIF) has designed a system whereby every ‘legal entity’ will need to register and obtain a unique identification number – a Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) when new European legislation, the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) and Regulation (MiFIR) takes effect in the UK.

If the entity does not obtain an LEI it will not be able to trade on the financial markets in the UK after 3 January 2018.

The London Stock Exchange (LSE) requires investors who are deemed to be legal entities to obtain the LEI, which is a 20-character alphanumeric reference code unique to the legal entity.

Legal entities include trusts, companies (public and private), pension funds (but not self-invested personal pensions), charities and unincorporated bodies that are parties to financial transactions. If the LEI has not been obtained by 3 January 2018, the investment firms will not be able to meet their obligations and provide the legal entity with investment services.

What is the purpose of LEIs?

All LEI data will be consolidated in one database in an effort to improve global entity identification and standardisation, which will enable regulators and organisations to measure and manage counterparty exposure. In addition it will enable every legal entity or structure with an LEI to be identified in any jurisdiction. Once the legal entity has the LEI, it will be required to quote it to the requisite service provider when it enters into a reportable financial transaction. Every financial transaction will require sight of the LEI in order for it to be processed.

Do trusts need one?

The regulations require trustees who are using capital markets in relation to trust funds to obtain the LEI for the trust. We understand that bare trusts may have been excluded from the requirement to obtain an LEI (depending on whether the firm classifies bare trusts as legal entities or as individual/joint accounts) but all other trusts will be obliged to obtain one if they are parties to financial transactions.

In the case of discretionary trusts which have legal restrictions and cannot disclose trust details, the LSE will accept a validation from the trust itself, and will not require sight of the trust deed. However, in all other cases the LSE will generally accept a scanned copy of the first couple of pages of the trust deed in the same way that many banks do for AML compliance. Entities other than trusts are obliged to provide information such as their official registry details and business address.

Issues around trusts

When you apply for the LEI you will be asked to reference the source of its identity, such as Companies House if it is a company registered there. However, there is no equivalent register for trusts. It may be possible to use the trust’s Unique Tax Reference (UTR) from HMRC’s tax return to identify it. This would appear to be a sensible approach for the purpose of minimising the number of LEIs for a trust with multiple funds; however some larger trusts may apply for an LEI covering all of the sub-funds regardless of the UTR. There is still no guidance available on this point.

Renewal

Every entity will be required to renew its LEI on an annual basis and there will be a charge for renewal. To renew your LEI you must provide the Local Operating Unit with updated information, so that it may verify the data held.

However the FCA update dated 2 August 2017 clarifies that the requirement under MiFID II to renew the LEI on an annual basis applies to firms that are subject to MiFIR transaction reporting obligations, and in the UK, under our implementation of MiFID II, to UK branches of non-EEA firms when providing investment services and activities.

This recent update clarifies that trusts will not need to renew their LEIs on an annual basis unless they want to continue undertaking financial transactions.

What if I don’t apply?

If the LEI has not been obtained by 3 January 2018, investment firms will not be able to provide the legal entity with investment services. The legal entity itself is ultimately responsible for obtaining the LEI, but some investment firms may agree to apply for the LEI on behalf of their legal entity clients. The LSE has produced a draft format which will be acceptable in order to transfer the application authority from the entity to a third party such as a management company, if preferred.

Registration information

Each Local Operating Unit (LOU) may charge a fee for arranging the LEI and the fee may variable at each Operating Unit. You can find a LOU on the GLEIF website.

For more details on how to request your LEI, see the guides:

Quick User guide (pdf)
Full LEI User Guide (pdf)

It is widely acknowledged that guidance is lacking in this area, and the private client sector is keen to see some more prescriptive guidance in relation to trusts before the end of the year.

Emily Deane TEP is STEP Technical Counsel

Happy 25th birthday STEP Jersey!

George HodgsonI had the pleasure of attending STEP Jersey’s AGM and 25th anniversary celebration this week. STEP Jersey is one of our largest branches, with over 1200 members, and is also one of our most active. Not only does it host many well-attended events, but it works closely with government, regulators and others to ensure the jurisdiction maintains its position as a respected international financial centre.

Indeed it is fair to say that STEP Jersey plays an integral and important role in the economic life of the island, with the trust industry one of the largest local employers.

Much of the discussion focused on how to ensure that STEP, both locally and internationally, could maintain the success of its first quarter century well into the next. In conversations over a most enjoyable traditional cream tea (with the welcome, but less traditional, addition of a glass of Prosecco) I was struck by the confident tone of many senior professionals who were present.

They fully acknowledge the challenges that increased transparency and a consequent explosion in compliance costs will bring. Rather as with Brexit in the UK, however, the mood was generally ‘what is done is done – so let’s get on with it.’

I am delighted to see that STEP Jersey is setting up a policy-focused committee to ensure there are effective links with local regulators and others to work through the rapid changes now underway.

The team at STEP Worldwide will continue to give STEP Jersey (and other branches working on these issues) all the support we can in helping develop a coherent and well-informed strategic approach to the trust industry in the new age of transparency.

George Hodgson is Chief Executive of STEP

CRS reporting update, June 2017

Emily Deane TEPSTEP attended the most recent CRS Business Advisory Group hosted by HMRC and discussed the following issues:

FAQs

HMRC advised that new documents on the OECD portal have been published along with some additional FAQs.

Anti-avoidance

Members were interested to know when the OECD will publish its loophole paper which will review loophole reporting strategies.

HMRC advised it does not expect imminent changes to the OECD’s anti-avoidance strategy but does expect a review prior to that planned in 2019.

In the meantime, the OECD has launched a facility for parties to disclose CRS schemes which are potentially used to circumvent CRS reporting.

US TINs – invalid format

The number of the US Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) to be submitted has to be in a certain format, otherwise the return will be rejected.

In some cases a nine-zero approach will be accepted but some accounts with missing TINs are causing difficulties having been submitted in an incorrect format. The ‘missing TIN’ cases are inevitably causing issues for users and HMRC. Members agreed that there will be problems next year when the nine-zero approach will no longer be accepted.

HMRC recognises these difficulties and has been liaising with the IRS regarding the TIN issues. A member also mentioned that the issue was being raised by industry groups in EU circles.

Invalid self-certifications

Members agreed that HMRC’s guidance is ambiguous if a self-certification is returned to the financial institution but contains errors. For example, would HMRC accept a self cert that had been returned, but not signed, in a time sensitive case?

HMRC declined to generalise on self-certification issues, stating that each example has to be judged on its own specific issues. It confirmed that it is up to the financial institution to decide whether it is satisfied that a person is non reportable. The financial institution should apply due diligence procedures based on guidance and common sense.

The mediation period and the cut off timing were also discussed. HMRC stated that it is up to the individual financial institution’s procedures as to the cut off. It was agreed that it can be a grey area with some contradictions, and in some cases the financial institution may need to decide whether a person is reportable, whilst the validation is undertaken. More clarity on this issue was requested from HMRC.

HMRC customer support

HMRC has been receiving increasing numbers of calls from clients of financial institutions, rather than the financial institutions themselves. This is causing problems, particularly when close to filing dates. As a result, HMRC has asked financial institutions to omit its contact details from notes that accompany the self-certifications, stating these are not relevant to clients and it does not have the resources to deal with additional queries.

STEP will continue to attend the periodic working group to discuss ongoing technical issues with HMRC.

Resources:

STEP Guidance Note: CRS and trusts
Live STEP webinar on ‘CRS and Trustees’ with John Riches TEP and Samantha Morgan TEP, 13 June

 

Emily Deane TEP is STEP Technical Counsel

European Data Protection Supervisor voices privacy concerns over 4AMLD

George HodgsonThe European Data Protection Supervisor’s Opinion on proposed amends to the Fourth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive (4AMLD) shines a welcome spotlight on data protection implications and the ‘significant and unnecessary risks to an individual’s right to privacy’.

The Opinion, published on 2 February 2017, raises questions as to whether or not the proposed collection of personal data is proportionate to the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing and scrutinises the access to beneficial ownership information and the significant and unnecessary risks that this might cause an individual who has a right to privacy and data protection.

STEP has been heavily engaged with Brussels for some time on proposed revisions to 4AMLD. We have also, via our relevant STEP branches, been active on the issue in several EU Member States.

The existing 4AMLD recognises that many trusts are sensitive family arrangements, often designed to protect the interests of vulnerable family members. Trusts are therefore treated differently to corporate structures: beneficial ownership information on trusts is not publicly available and is only accessible by recognised competent authorities, and registers of trusts are confined to trusts with tax consequences, reflecting the fact that any risk assessment suggests that this is where the highest risk of abuse lies.

The proposed revisions to 4AMLD effectively put trusts on the same basis as most corporate structures. This means Member States would be required to establish comprehensive beneficial ownership registers of ALL trusts – a change that will impact on millions of ordinary families. It also would require that such register should be available, as a minimum, to anyone who has a ‘legitimate interest’ (not defined – but understood to include journalists and NGOs with an interest in this area), and allowing Member States to open such registers even to those with no demonstrable ‘legitimate interest’ in the information.

In spite of STEP’s best efforts, and the best efforts of other professional bodies who have been working with us on this issue, our arguments against these proposals were getting little attention from policy makers. The original proposals for the revision were sparked by a wave of terrorist attacks in Brussels, and then were increasingly seen as a necessary political response to the Panama Papers scandal. Brexit then did few favours for those trying to argue in Brussels for the merits of what are still generally seen as ‘Anglo-Saxon trusts’…

It is encouraging, therefore, that the European Data Protection Supervisor, a powerful voice in Brussels, has now weighed in with a stinging review of the proposed amendments. They are seen as having muddled objectives underpinned by little objective risk assessment and paying scant regard to the issue of proportionality, particularly in the proposal to allow wide access to beneficial ownership information on family trusts. We can only wait and see how this impacts on the intense debate that is currently going on in the EU Parliament on the proposals.

 

George Hodgson is Chief Executive of STEP

Are you a Trust or Company Service Provider under Schedule 23?

UK Emily Deane TEPHMRC has confirmed today that firms that advise their clients on the establishment of offshore companies or trusts may receive pre-Notice letters this month.

The letter requests that advisors come forward and volunteer the following information to HMRC: name and address of the client, the entity details (name, jurisdiction, date of registration) and details of persons with beneficial ownership or interest in the entity. Following the issue of the pre-Notice letters the formal Notices will be issued under Schedule 23 of the UK Finance Act 2011 in February 2017.

STEP and the Law Society of England & Wales have been in protracted talks with HMRC about this issue over the last year. There are concerns about the potential breach of legal professional privilege, access difficulties to the relevant data and the definition of Trust or Company Service Providers (TCSPs).

HMRC has launched this initiative in order to gather information on the beneficial ownership of offshore companies and beneficial interest in offshore partnerships, trusts and other entities from UK-based TCSPs or their overseas subsidiaries. However, the definition of a TCSP in this connection is a little uncertain. The Money Laundering Regulations 2007 (MLR) incorporate the meaning of a TCSP within regulation 3:

’10) “Trust or company service provider” means a firm or sole practitioner who by way of business provides any of the following services to other persons—

(a) forming companies or other legal persons;

(b) acting, or arranging for another person to act—

      (i) as a director or secretary of a company;

      (ii) as a partner of a partnership; or

      (iii) in a similar position in relation to other legal persons;

(c) providing a registered office, business address, correspondence or administrative address or other related services for a company, partnership or any other legal person or arrangement;

(d) acting, or arranging for another person to act, as—

      (i) a trustee of an express trust or similar legal arrangement; or

      (ii) a nominee shareholder for a person other than a company whose securities are listed on a regulated market,

when providing such services.’

We believe that the most likely scenario whereby a UK practitioner will be classed as a TCSP is under section 10(d) when the UK practitioner arranges for another person to set up the entity offshore. It is not entirely clear whether this would  be a formal referral to another firm, involving a transaction fee, or whether an informal recommendation of an offshore firm is sufficient to trigger the classification as a TCSP.

Regulation 6 of the MLR sets out in detail which persons should be treated as though they are beneficial owners for the purpose of Anti-Money Laundering. Those categories are:

  • any individual who is entitled to a specified interest in at least 25 per cent of the capital of the trust property
  • any trust, other than one which is set up or operates entirely for the benefit of individuals, falling within sub-paragraph (a) the class of persons in whose main interest the trust is set up or operates
  • any individual who has control over the trust.

There is a £300 penalty for initial non-compliance, followed by daily penalties of up to £60 if the non-compliance continues. The TCSP will have 90 days to respond with the requisite information.

We understand that the Notices are only being sent to a select number of firms in February and HMRC has not issued any guidance at this time, therefore please contact emily.deane@step.org if you have any queries.

Emily Deane TEP is STEP Technical Counsel

April 2017 changes to the UK’s taxation of long-term resident, non-domiciled individuals

Update on discussions relating to the treatment of trusts

Following the consultation paper issued on 19 August 2016, members of STEP’s UK Technical Committee have been closely involved in discussions with HM Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs in relation to the latest proposals.

The most difficult area is the treatment of offshore trusts set up by non-domiciliaries who become deemed domiciled in the UK as a result of having lived there for 15 years in a 20 year period.

When the changes were announced in the July 2015 budget, much was made of the fact that assets held in trust would be protected from inheritance tax, capital gains tax and income tax (other than in relation to UK source income which would continue to be taxed as it arises). A deemed domiciled settlor would only be taxable on benefits received from the structure or conferred on close family members.

One significant surprise in the August consultation paper therefore was a proposal that a deemed domiciled settlor would be taxed on all of the gains of an offshore trust once the settlor or a close family member has received any benefit from the trust – ie the receipt of the benefit would mean that the capital gains tax protections would be lost for the future.

As part of the consultation discussions, a paper has been prepared by a barrister with input from colleagues from various representative bodies including STEP. The paper is very much in draft form but sets out a potential alternative approach to legislating the trust protections. A copy of the paper can be found below.

We have been asked to make it absolutely clear that the paper was not commissioned by HMRC or HMT. Nor does it represent an approach to trusts preferred either by HMT, HMRC or the government. The paper was prepared to facilitate discussion at a consultation meeting between HMRC/HMT and various representative bodies to consider alternative approaches to how it is best to legislate the protections and it should be read in that context.

Having said this, it is important that STEP members are aware that alternative proposals are being put forward and discussed and that the final proposals may well be different to those made in the 19 August 2016 consultation paper.

We are expecting the government’s position to be announced as part of the Autumn Statement on 23 November 2016 with draft legislation being available by 5 December as part of the draft Finance Bill.

 

STEP UK Technical Committee

French trust register goes live to public on 30 June

George HodgsonFrance has taken the unprecedented decision to put its register of trusts online and freely accessible this week.

From 30 June the French trusts register can be accessed by using a number of search criteria, including the name of the trust, or identity of the trustee, settlor or beneficiaries.

France obtained this information as trustees of trusts which have a French connection, eg resident settlor, beneficiary and/or holding French assets, have been required to file reports with the French tax authorities since 1 January 2012. Failure to comply is punishable by a fine of at least EUR20,000, or 12.5 per cent of trust assets, if higher.

STEP is highly critical of the move, noting that the data was supplied for tax purposes in good faith, and with no permission for it to be made public.

There is no protection offered for details of vulnerable beneficiaries, such as children, elderly people, or those with limited mental capacity.

This information is strongly biased towards non-French structures, which are being treated on a different basis to French structures.

In addition, there has been no attempt to ensure that the information remains relevant or up to date; nor is there any facility to remove data that is no longer correct.

 

George Hodgson is Interim Chief Executive of STEP