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17 August 2017 | Comment | Article by Eleanor Evans TEP

Trust Registration: The 5 Ws

Changes in the European Union’s Anti-Money Laundering Regulations (AML) are affecting the registration process of trusts and increasing reporting requirements. The new HMRC Trusts and Estates Registration Service is now live.

Here are the 5 Ws explaining what this means for you:


  • What is the AML and what are the EU’s changes? The AML directive covers trusts and similar types of legal agreements that were previously excluded. Trusts are required to be fully transparent, specifically when identifying beneficial owners. The AML creates a preventative system of due diligence to check customer ID, to ensure ongoing monitoring, to identify beneficial ownership and politically exposed persons.
  • What information will be required from trustees? Trustees will provide sensitive data such as the address, date of birth and national insurance number of any settlors (person(s) setting up the trust) or beneficiaries (those who benefit from the trust). The trustees must provide details of assets held in the trust and specify which jurisdiction the trust is to be administered for tax purposes.
  • What kind of trusts have reporting requirements? The reporting obligations apply to trusts established by will or intestacy, deeds of variation or family agreement. Data held by HMRC on existing trusts will be migrated to the new system, however, trustees are obliged to update the register if any changes have taken place.


  • Trustees – Anyone holding an asset for someone else through a trust. The trustees will have to report assets and the individuals they are holding said assets for (the beneficiaries).
  • Beneficial owners – Where the use and title of an asset in equity belong to the beneficial owner, the trustee holds the legal title. The beneficial owner is the person/persons that the assets are being held for.
  • Agents/Solicitors – At the moment, agents or solicitors cannot complete the Registration on behalf of trustees. Trustees will sign in to the online service using their own personal Government Gateway credentials.


  • Why are trusts registered? Trusts in England and Wales are registered with HMRC to ensure that assets owned by a trust as well as beneficial owners or controlling persons (any person with control over the trust such as a settlor, trustee, protector, a beneficiary, a class of beneficiaries (for example “my grandchildren”) and any person with control over the trust) are identifiable.
  • Why does HMRC require more information? HMRC will now have more data on trusts than ever before and will be able to identify changes in the administration of a trust, connecting all parties linked to an asset in a trust. This system, HMRC believe, will help reduce tax evasion and money laundering.
  • Why are reporting requirements increasing? This is part of a global effort to combat tax evasion and money laundering, an issue highlighted by the infamous Panama Papers. A law firm’s data was leaked online exposing high profile tax avoidance and money laundering. The issue is broadly discussed in the media and has become a international political problem.


  • Will Brexit affect this change? No. Immediately after triggering Brexit, the UK government published a white paper on the Great Repeal Act, and what it means is that all EU Law will be adapted in the UK to ensure a smooth transition.
  • What does this mean for non UK Trustees? Non-UK Trustees remain outside the registration requirements until the trust becomes subject to UK tax liabilities (for example, when the non-UK trust purchases UK assets).


  • 10 July 2017 – Online Trusts and Estates Registration Service published by HMRC.
  • 5 October 2017 – Deadline for lead trustees to register new trusts using the online system.
  • 31 January 2018 – Deadline to report beneficial owners and assets of existing trusts.
  • 5 April 2018 – End of tax year.

Data leaks such as the Panama Papers provided some transparency on the offshore activity of politicians, celebrities, businesspeople and criminals alike. The end result is a global shift towards increased reporting and transparency. Therefore, if you are a trustee and you’re looking for someone to blame for the increased bureaucracy, I would blame Jackie Chan, Vladimir Putin, David Cameron’s father and Simon Cowell for their suspect offshore dealings.

This service has only been live for a month and, at present, an agent or solicitor cannot complete the online registration on behalf of Trustees. This, of course, is likely to change. The system may well be going paperless but, rest assured, there is more paperwork.

If you are already a trustee or you are hoping to set up a new trust, please contact the Tax, Trusts and Estates Department for further advice.

Author bio

Eleanor Evans TEP


Eleanor is Head of the Trusts and Estates Administration Department, a large team dealing with estates and trusts administration on behalf of financial institution and trust corporation clients.  Eleanor is a specialist in wills, probate, tax and trusts, and is a full member of STEP (the Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners).  She is also a committee member of the STEP Wales branch.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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