Are you a trustee?

Trustees may not be aware of the new requirement to register trusts. 

In 2017 the UK introduced a trust register which must be completed for all trusts with a tax consequence in 2016/17 (explained below). The deadlines fall in January, so quick action may be needed. 

HMRC – which runs the register – has done very little by way of publicity about this. The ICAEW Tax Faculty has published regular updates and other guidance for members, but this may not have reached all members who do not work in tax but who advise trustees or who are themselves trustees. 

What is the TRS?

The Trust Registration Service (TRS) is the only way to advise HMRC of a new trust or estate and obtain a self assessment unique tax reference (UTR). 

The TRS is the government’s response to the requirements of the EU Fourth Money Laundering Directive. It is governed by regulations which came into force on 26 June 2017. 

The TRS became available to trustees in July 2017 and to agents in October 2017. 

There have been many problems with the roll-out of the service and the Tax Faculty has been – and continues to be – very active in discussing the problems with HMRC and pressing for improvements. 

Who should register and by when?

For new trusts, or trusts which became liable for tax for the first time in 2016/17, the deadline to register was originally 5 October 2017. Because of the problems with the system, this deadline was extended to 5 January 2018. 

For those trusts already liable to tax and registered for self assessment (SA), the deadline to register online is 31 January 2018. Again, because of the problems and after lobbying by ICAEW and others, HMRC has announced a period of grace. The statutory deadline remains 31 January but no penalty will be charged if the trust is registered on or before 5 March 2018. 

There seems to be a misunderstanding by many that the register is for new trusts only. This is not the case; it applies to all trusts with a tax consequence in 2016/17 and still in existence. 

There has been very little publicity by HMRC regarding this new register but penalties will apply if the revised deadline of 5 March 2018 is not met. The scale of the penalties has not yet been announced. 

It is the trustees’ responsibility to register their trust but most will probably want their agent to complete the register on their behalf. Trusts with an agent should check that this has been done. Trusts with no appointed agent should take action now, and may wish to seek advice. 

How do you register?

The TRS is an online system and it is necessary to obtain credentials from HMRC to open an account: 

  • If you are a trustee wanting to register a trust you can follow the links at Trustees - tax responsibilities on GOV.UK to request an account.
  • If you are an agent wanting to register trusts on behalf of trustees you need to create an agent services account; this is a different account to the government gateway used for self assessment, corporation tax, VAT, etc. 

More guidance and information

HMRC has issued some FAQs which can be found on our tax news website at Trust registration service – more guidance from HMRC. 

The December 2017 HMRC Trusts & Estates Newsletter gives a useful summary of the information required to register a trust. 

Tax Faculty members can read a summary of the TRS, the background and where we are now, in the January 2018 edition.