Should I register my trust myself, or is it better to use an agent?
The bottom line is that it is the responsibility of trustees to register their trust(s) on the Trust Registration Service (TRS) within the deadlines that apply, which are by 1 September 2022 or within 90 days of the trust’s creation, whichever is the later.
Whilst Trustee Support Services is happy to work with trustees and their advisers, and to register trusts on their behalf, trustees can also register their trust on the TRS themselves for no cost. We, in common with other agents, will charge a fee for our services, but we also believe that we add significant value in return for the fee that we receive and are happy to share some of the common experiences that we have come across to date when registering trusts on behalf of trustees.
The Trust Registration Service
As discussed above, trustees can register their trusts directly on the TRS for no cost, via gov.uk. However, the TRS itself is not a particularly user-friendly system, registration can be time-consuming and daunting for some and a good knowledge of trusts, and how they work, can be needed to navigate the system.
We, at Trustee Support Services, have substantial experience with dealing with trusts and the tax and legislative issues surrounding them and are very familiar with the intricacies of the TRS and its rules.
Collecting the required information
Registering a trust requires the provision of a significant amount of information covering not only the trust but the parties involved, including the settlors, trustees, beneficiaries and other persons who may be able to exercise control over the trust. If the trust has incurred a tax liability, additional information on the trust’s assets at the time of registration. Whilst trustees may have the majority of information in their records, other information such as dates of birth, National Insurance numbers and addresses may not be quite so readily available.
Our Trustee Questionnaire has been designed to collect all of the required information in one place and also allows additional information to be added in a ‘Notes’ section at the bottom of each page if the person completing it is unsure whether some information may be needed or not. We also allow copies of the trust documentation (including trust deeds, wills, deeds appointing, removing or retiring trustees or changing the shares of beneficiaries etc) to be uploaded within the questionnaire.
The questionnaire can be saved and closed at the end of each section, so there is no requirement that it is completed in one go and it only needs to be submitted to us once it is complete. We have added additional completion instructions and hints under most questions and are also available to answer any queries that may arise around completing our questionnaire.
Checking that information is correct
As trusts can be complicated and documentation used to set up trusts can be long and often written using language that many people may not be familiar with (legalese!), there is a high risk that the wrong information may be provided. As an example, if a trust is established by a will, is the trust date the date the trust was signed, the date of the settlor’s death or, if a deed of variation has been executed, the date of the deed of variation? The answer is the date of the settlor’s death.
Where trustees upload trust documentation in our Trustee Questionnaire, we will check this information against the information provided in the questionnaire. If we find anomalies or missing information, we will contact the person who submitted the questionnaire to resolve any anomalies and to verify the information required for the TRS.
There are a couple of areas in the TRS that will also verify input details against information already held by HMRC. If details do not match, it is not possible to proceed with the registration of the trust until the input details are corrected to match HMRC’s records. Helpfully, HMRC does not highlight which details may be incorrect and some of the information that they are looking for may be historic!
As a part of our verification process, we have also identified numerous errors in the trust documentation itself that has been provided, some of which can render the document invalid and not having come into effect – this could be particularly relevant on, for example, deeds that are changing trustees – if the appointment of a new trustee is not valid, that individual is not in a position to legally administer the trust.
Where we identify such errors, we will explain to the trustees what the error is an its possible implications. We will also provide suggestions on how the error can (or should) be corrected. We can also provide draft deeds etc, if required.
It is worth remembering that problems with trust documentation may arise at a time when the person who set the trust up may no longer be around or able to help resolve them.
Where can I find out more?
Our website contains the information needed to determine whether a trust requires registration, as well as other information that may be useful for trustees. It also provides full details of our services, how we can register trusts and other support that we can offer trustees both before and after their trusts have been registered on the TRS. You will need to open a secure account on our site before you can access the Trustee Questionnaire.
We are also happy to discuss your particular circumstances, either by phone or email – try us!
Online searches can also provide other details, including other people who may provide services to register trusts. Do, however, be aware that some information (even if it ranks highly in search engines) that you will come across may be out of date (and therefore now incorrect) or it may relate to trust registration requirements in other jurisdictions which have no relevance to the UK TRS. As ever, you should consider double- (or triple-) checking information you find before acting on it, even if you read it in the press!
The above is a summary of the additional value that we can, and other agents may, add to the trust registration process. We recognise that everyone’s circumstances are different and we would look to work with you in the way that best suits you.
The clock is ticking down towards the 1 September 2022 so we would recommend that action to start the trust registration process is taken now rather than waiting any longer. HMRC has indicated that trustees who fail to register their trusts within the required deadlines could be liable to fines and penalties.