On 26 June 2017, trustees became obliged to file information with HMRC regarding the beneficial ownership of trusts under the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017. These Regulations are the latest in a continuing stream of international regulatory provisions aimed at cracking down on money laundering and tax avoidance, and improving transparency.
Trusts which incurred a liability to tax in 2016-2017 had to register the relevant information with HMRC using the Trust Registration Service by 31 January 2018. However, HMRC later announced that no penalties would be applied for trustees failing to meet the 31 January deadline, provided they did register by 5 March 2018. This concession was primarily introduced as HMRC were slow in rolling out digital access to the register.
Now that the 5 March deadline is upon us this communication between STEP and HMRC suggests that HMRC has decided to take a sensible approach with regards to penalising trustees who have failed to comply with the deadline.
HMRC will not automatically charge penalties for late TRS returns. Instead we will take a pragmatic and risk-based approach to charging penalties, particularly where it is clear that trustees or their agents have made every reasonable effort to meet their obligations under the regulations. We will also take into account that this is the first year in which trustees and agents have had to meet the registration obligations.