The government is moving forward with steps to increase the scope for registration of trusts. Under current rules, broadly speaking, trusts that have a tax liability are required to register through the TRS. The new rules appear likely to include all 'express' trusts such as those which are used to hold a non-income producing asset such as a house.

My colleague Leigh Gould recently blogged on the EU Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD) which brought into force a lot of the legislation but not the TRS aspect. See Leigh's blog here 

On 23 January the government published its response to the consultation on TRS. A detailed technical consultation on extending the TRS is now being held which closes on 21 February 2020.

Express Trusts

So what is an express trust?

The technical consultation defines an express trust as "a trust created through the intention of the settlor". This is a very wide definition and purposely so. The idea is that this will capture every trust that it is not yet already necessary to register unless it is exempt (discussed below).

The consultation confirms that it is still being considered whether bare trusts will need to be registered.


There are a number of types of trust that are likely to be declared out of scope and to the relief of many this looks set to include policy trusts. The consultation concluded that the risk of money laundering from policy trusts is so low that it would be disproportionate for these to be registered.

Broadly speaking the exempt categories will include:-

  • statutory trusts that arise as a result of statutory requirements rather than the settlor's intentions;
  • certain trusts of land. Likely only to have application in England and Wales;
  • trusts where two or more people co-own an asset such as a joint bank account legally and beneficially for themselves;
  • vulnerable beneficiary trusts;
  • personal injury trusts;
  • approved share-option and profit-sharing schemes;
  • charitable trusts;
  • life assurance policies; and
  • registered pension schemes held in trust.

Registration deadlines

10 March 2022 is (for the moment) the date by which trusts in existence on 10 March 2020 will need to register. For trusts set up after 10 March 2020 the date the trustees must register the trust with the TRS is within 30 days of the trust being created or 10 March 2022 whichever is later.

Potential penalty regime

It is envisaged that initially trustees who fail to update details will be sent an HMRC letter chastising them and also reminding them of their responsibility to register the trust. Thereafter a fixed penalty of £100 is likely to the be the punishment which will be familiar to those individuals and trustees within the self-assessment regime.

Data protection

The new proposals include certain categories of information that will be made available on 'beneficial owners' (settlor, trustee or beneficiary). There had been some concern, that potentially sensitive data, if it were made publicly available, could fall into the wrong hands. The consultation confirms that the information will only be made available to those who can demonstrate that they require the information for anti-money laundering purposes.

The information will include name, month and year of birth, country of residence and nationality and also the nature of their relationship to the trust (settlor, trustee or beneficiary). This is very similar to the information on those with interests in companies that Companies House makes publicly available through its own website.

This is an area that we will be keeping a close eye on and further updates will be posted in due course. If you have any questions about how this may impact you please contact me or your usual contact in the team to discuss further.