Trusts under the spotlight

A series of government moves over the past few decades have reduced their tax advantages and made trusts much less attractive to wealthy families. They are likely to become less popular still from March, when a new requirement will force thousands more trustees to list on a government register that is partially open to the public, or risk penalties. Since 2017, certain types of trusts have had to report information to a government online register called the Trusts Registration Service (TRS). This came into being as result of an EU-wide directive to tackle money laundering. To comply with the rules, all UK trusts that have to pay a tax liability such as capital gains tax (CGT), income tax, inheritance tax or stamp duty must report information to the register.

Trusts that are outside the UK but trigger UK tax must also do so, as must all trusts that are required to fill out a self-assessment tax return anyway. Currently the register is not publicly available, with access limited to law enforcement authorities. But from March, the next phase of the EU directive (the fifth Anti Money-Laundering Directive) is set to increase the number of trusts that must submit reports. It will also partially open up the register to the public, including journalists, leading some to worry about an erosion of privacy. Despite the UK’s imminent departure from the EU, the government is committed to implementing the directive and passing it into domestic law before Christmas. tax experts warn that hundreds of thousands of trustees and beneficiaries could be affected and need to understand better the possible impact of the changes.

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