Trust Registration Service (TRS) changes: Important update and action required

The TRS registration is a one-off event, however, the register needs to be updated where relevant changes have occurred to the details previously provided. Up until now, this could be done via a letter to HM Revenue & Customs, as and when required.   However, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) have now provided online access to the register to make such changes electronically and the option to update by letter has been withdrawn. They have also imposed a new obligation, effective immediately, for trustees to confirm annually that there have been no changes to the Trust Register.

What does it mean to me as a ‘trustee’?

It is the trustee’s responsibility to keep the Trust Register up to date.  You can appoint your accountant as an agent to assist you with this but the agent authorisation is separate to any existing authorisation in place under self-assessment etc.

The details held on the Trust Register that must be updated are changes to the trustees, personal representatives, beneficiaries, members of the class of beneficiaries, settlors, protectors or agents.  It is not necessary to update the register for changes to the assets held in the trust.  The register must also be updated when a trust comes to an end.

What does it mean to the trust compliance?

When there is an obligation to update the Trust Register depends on whether the trust has incurred a tax liability in the tax year of the change.

Under the current regulations, if there is a tax liability in the year in which the change occurred, trustees are required to update the data on the register for those changes by 31 January following the tax year in which the change occurred.

If there was no UK tax liability in the tax year the change occurred, the requirement to update is deferred until the 31 January following the next tax year in which a tax liability arises. Please note that tax liability is not limited to just income tax or capital gains tax as might be suggested by the link to tax years, but can include Stamp Duty Land Tax and inheritance tax etc.

If there are no changes to trust data in a tax year, but the trust has incurred a tax liability during the period, the trustees must confirm via the online register that no changes have occurred and that the details on the register are up to date on or before 31 January following the tax year.

What do I need to do if the trust had a tax liability in the 2019/20 tax year?

Trusts in self-assessment for the 2019/20 tax year must confirm that they have either updated the Trust Register or confirm the details are correct by completing question 20 of the SA900 trust tax return:

Q20        You have a responsibility to ensure the information you have supplied on the Trust Register is accurate and up to date to the best of your knowledge and belief.

Tick this box if there have been any changes or additions to the people associated with the trust, and you’ve provided the updated details on the Trust Register or you’ve confirmed on the Trust Register that there have been no changes to the trust.

Question 20 was introduced to the trust tax return in 2017/18, however, there was no online functionality within TRS prior to 6 April 2020, and therefore trusts within self-assessment for 2017/18 and 2018/19 were able to submit their returns leaving this question blank. This has now changed and question 20 of the SA900 trust tax return must be addressed.

If a trust has incurred a tax liability in the 2019/20 tax year, the trustees must access the Trust Register to either update or confirm that there have been no changes to the information previously submitted. This must be done before 31 January 2021 but, most importantly, before the trust tax return is submitted to HMRC as the relevant question 20 on the trust tax return must be answered. HMRC may raise enquiries into trust tax returns where this question has not been answered, and take action (such as penalties).

If the trust has not incurred a tax liability in 2019/20 but a change has occurred in the year, the trustees must update the register by 31 January following the next tax year in which a tax liability does arise.

What action do I need to take?

Regardless of whether you want to update the Trust Register yourself or appoint your agent, you will need to obtain a government gateway account for each trust for which you are the lead trustee and ‘claim the trust’.  You then have the option to appoint your accountant as your agent or to update/confirm no changes to the register yourself.

Digitally excluded trustees

Some trustees may not be able to use the online system to appoint an agent. A digitally excluded trustee is one who, for reasons of age, disability, remoteness of location, religion or other valid reason is unable to engage with HMRC’s online digital services.

We understand that HMRC is considering how to enable such trustees to appoint an agent. If none of the trustees are able to appoint an agent digitally, one trustee should call the Trust Helpline (0300 123 1072) for help and support.

The advisers on the helpline will triage the trustee to HMRC’s Extra Support Team (EST) if that is appropriate. The EST can then determine if the trustee falls into the digitally ‘assisted’ group (i.e. they could use the service with help) or digitally excluded (they have no ability to authorise an agent digitally).  If you are assessed as digitally excluded, HMRC will provide instructions of how to proceed to appoint an agent.