The New Trust Registration Service
Susan Cattell explains that the new ‘micro-service’ version of the Trust Registration Service is now available in ‘private beta’. Agents can request access, but clients will need to provide a ‘digital handshake’ to authorise an agent to access TRS on their behalf.
What is the Trust Registration Service?
The original Trust Registration Service (TRS) was introduced in 2017 to provide the mechanism for trusts to register, as required by the UK regulations which implemented the EU 4th Money Laundering Directive. The launch of the TRS did not proceed smoothly, particularly for agents, and the original deadlines for registration had to be extended. Unfortunately, serious problems with TRS persisted after the launch: it remains impossible to view data held in the system and agents and trustees cannot amend data or add new information.
The implementation of the Fifth Money Laundering Directive (5MLD) will require far more trusts to register, so it was clear that the unsatisfactory operation of TRS could not continue. In its response to the 2019 consultation on the transposition of 5MLD into UK law, ICAS commented that it was vital that a fully functioning, user friendly TRS would be available, in time for the significant expansion of the registration requirements. Legislation implementing parts of 5MLD in the UK came into force on 10 January 2020. However, to allow for further consultation, this did not include the changes required to the registration of trusts. A consultation (including draft legislation) was issued on 24 January 2020 and closed on 21 February; the legislation is expected to come into force later in 2020.
It is therefore welcome news that HMRC has now made available a new ‘micro-service’ Trust Registration Service. This new version of the service cannot be accessed via the link on GOV.UK as it is currently only open to invited users whilst it is in the ‘private beta’ phase of development. Agents can obtain access by contacting the Trust Registration Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Full details are included in the latest edition of HMRC’s Trusts and Estates Newsletter. Before signing up there are some issues agents may wish to consider.
What features are currently available in the new service?
The new TRS is not yet fully functioning but it does include the following features:
- Agents and lead trustees can register a trust
- Clients can authorise an agent (handshake)
- Agents and lead trustees can view data held by HMRC
- Agents and lead trustees can notify HMRC no changes have been made (declare no change)
What features will be added in future?
HMRC intend to add the features listed below to the service. ICAS has asked for a timeline for implementation; we understand full functionality is expected to be available by Summer 2020, but we don’t currently have precise dates.
- Agents and lead trustees can change data
- Agents and lead trustee can add data
- Agents and lead trustee can close a Trust
Once the full service is available via GOV.UK the current iForm TRS service will be decommissioned.
Trust Registration Service Digital Handshake
One feature of the new TRS which is likely to present problems for some agents and clients/trustees is the mechanism for authorising agents, which requires the following steps:
- The client will need to register for a Government Gateway account with organisation credentials, which will allow them access to the Trust Registration Service.
- The client will need to complete questions related to their trust successfully in order to claim their trust. This does not have to be done by the Lead Trustee.
- The agent will create a link in their Agent Services account to issue to their client which will allow them to gain authorisation to act on their client’s behalf.
- The client will need to decline or accept.
Many clients do not want to engage with HMRC at all – part of the reason for appointing an agent is to avoid having to use HMRC’s systems. They may be very reluctant to set up a Government Gateway account. This has been raised with HMRC; whilst security is important, making it difficult for some clients to appoint agents does not appear to be in anyone’s interests. It would be helpful if a secure alternative method of authorisation could be made available for digitally challenged clients.
HMRC has set out how it will deal with those who are digitally excluded, or fall into the ‘assisted digital’ category:
Digitally Excluded: where a client does not have access to IT to be able to interact with HMRC digitally, a telephone helpline will be available both on the service and in the link received by the agent. An HMRC advisor will assess the client’s needs and arrange for the authorisation to be accepted via telephone.
Assisted Digital: for clients who require assistance with interacting with HMRC, a telephone helpline will be available both on the service and in the link received by the agent. An HMRC advisor will identify the client’s needs and suggest various options to carry out the process of the Digital Handshake, depending on the client’s requirements.
Let us know what you think
ICAS would like to hear how agents and their clients get on with the new TRS. Email email@example.com or login to the CA Connect forum, an area exclusive to members. Here you can share your thoughts on this article and engage in discussion about it with fellow members.