U.K. Tax Authority Misses Trust Ownership E-Register Deadline

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By Ben Stupples

The U.K. tax authority has missed the deadline to launch its online register for the beneficial ownership of trusts as the government grapples with the legislative fallout of this month’s snap general election.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs was expected to launch June 26 an online beneficial ownership register for trusts, giving it unprecedented power to find misuse of them. The register will now be available later “in the summer,” an HMRC spokeswoman told Bloomberg BNA in a June 26 email.

The delay comes amid the government’s struggle to implement legislation planned before U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May decided two months ago to call a snap general election on June 8.

HMRC’s online trust register, which aims to boost tax transparency, forms part of compliance with the European Union’s latest directive revision against money laundering, tax avoidance and evasion. Member states had until June 26 to implement the revisions into domestic law, but May’s call for an election prevented lawmakers from passing the final regulations before parliament dissolved last month.

“Due to the General Election, the laying of the Regs before Parliament has been delayed,” the HMRC spokeswoman told Bloomberg BNA in a June 22 email about the final regulations. The tax authority and the Treasury have been “further considering” responses to the published draft laws, she added.

Old System Scrapped

The online register’s delay also comes despite the government meeting the deadline to implement the EU’s revisions into U.K. law. In addition, HMRC has already scrapped the previous paper-based trust register, meaning that the tax authority currently has no way of collecting data on new trusts.

Emily Deane, technical counsel at the U.K.’s Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, told Bloomberg BNA in a June 27 email that HMRC is asking customers to “postpone” notifications on a new trust or complex estate due to the delay. Customers can notify again “when the new service is operational.”

Customers can expect “further guidance” from HMRC on “key issues” for the register, she added.

Offshore and Onshore

As part of HMRC’s online register, the individual controlling any existing trust—an entity created to hold assets for the benefit of certain people or other entities—must provide information about the people involved before the April 5, 2018, filing deadline. The registration requirement applies to any trust with a U.K. tax liability, regardless of whether they are located onshore or offshore.

Through the register, the person controlling a trust will disclose the social security numbers of U.K. residents, and the passport numbers of non-U.K. residents, involved in the trust.

Known as a trustee, the controller also must disclose a statement of accounts describing the trust’s assets and the country where it is administered for tax purposes, according to the final regulations.

Collecting this sort of information will allow HMRC and U.K. law enforcement agencies to “draw links between all parties related to an asset in a trust,” the tax authority said in a consultation originally published in September 2016. In turn, that allows a “marked change” in their ability to identify and interrupt suspicious activities.

“It’s quite a big deal,” Priya Dutta, a senior tax manager at London-based tax adviser Mark Davies & Associates Ltd., told Bloomberg BNA by telephone June 20. “There’s a lot of information that HMRC are going to get, and you can imagine that they’re going to look into things very carefully.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Stupples in London at bstupples@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Penny Sukhraj at psukhraj@bna.com

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