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There may be trouble ahead!

By Kevin Russell | 25 September 2019 | Comments (5)


When Irving Berlin penned these lyrics, he wasn’t thinking about the burden about to be placed on all UK charity trustees. But the words are strangely appropriate to changes due in a little over 18 months’ time! The song goes on:


before the fiddlers have fled,
before they ask us to pay the bill,
and while we still have the chance,
let's face the music and dance.


This article seeks to prepare us all so that we can face the music rather than having to pay a bill for being unaware of, or ignoring, the ‘trouble’ ahead.

What is this foreboding for charities I hear you ask?

The government’s implementation of the EU’s 5th Money Laundering Directive requires a Trusts Register to be established no later than 10 March 2020. All UK trusts (including charities) will have to register with the Trusts Registration Service (TRS); provide certain data on their charity; and keep that data up to date on pain of penalties, whether for late registration or for not updating the register.


Data required

Some of the language used may be unfamiliar and application of it to charitable trusts may be challenging. Good HMRC guidance will therefore be essential. In relation to each charity, the directive requires details of the:

  • settlor;
  • trustee(s);
  • beneficiaries or class of beneficiaries, and any other natural person exercising effective control of the trust.


And for each individual in the above list, their:

  • full name;
  • date of birth;
  • nationality;
  • country of residence;

the nature of the individual’s role in relation to the trust.

And for each corporate entity in the above list, the:

  • legal entity’s corporate or firm name;
  • registered or principal office of the legal entity;
  • nature of the entity’s role in relation to the trust.


The government may wish to collect some additional identifying information: for example, National Insurance or passport numbers.


Data disclosure

The data collected will be accessible to certain persons including individuals or businesses that are already subject to the money laundering regulations, such as banks, accountants and lawyers, as well as those that can demonstrate a ‘legitimate interest’ in access to information on a specified trust.



The government proposes that, for:

  • charities already in existence on 10 March 2020, a registration deadline of 31 March 2021;
  • charities created on or after 1 April 2020, registration within 30 days of creation, usually as part of the set-up process;
  • amendments to the registered data (such as a change in trustee or contact details), completion within 30 days.


The government will consider if other registration services for particular trust types could fulfil the directive’s requirements. It will simplify things for all concerned if the Charity Commission, OSCR and CCNI can fulfil this role for charities.



The penalty regime has yet to be settled. A detailed HMRC technical consultation to be published later this year will include additional information on the proposals for data collection, data sharing and penalties. We are assured that the registration process and any associated penalty regime will be applied proportionately. That said, it is clear that the EU directive does not provide scope for carve outs, exemptions, or de minimis thresholds.



As it’s an EU directive, the inevitable question is whether the UK’s departure from the EU will change anything. This is unfortunately doubtful. As an international measure that underpins the strength and reputation of member states’ financial markets, the UK will be keen to similarly protect its own reputation inside or outside of the EU.



At this stage, the best advice is to be aware of what is up and coming, to keep an eye on future announcements in the run up to the new regime and, as details become firmer towards the end of 2019, to make sure that the required information is to hand. This will avoid the prospect of a regulator knocking at your door after the event, asking why you haven’t complied.



With apologies to Irving Berlin, the money laundering fiddlers will always be with us. So, let’s minimise the risk of having to pay the bill by preparing ahead of time so that we can face the music and dance!

Posted by Kevin Russell

Our Legal Eagle guru and Stewardship's Technical Director, Kevin constantly has his finger on the pulse of all things tax and charity law-related. His briefing papers for charities, churches and individuals are an invaluable resource on everything from VAT to Gift Aid. 


Peter Hayes

October 3, 2019 8:48 AM
Presumably this also applies to non trust structures such as companies limited by guarantee?

Janet Walker

October 3, 2019 4:20 PM
Thanks for this. Can you tell me if it will apply to Exempt Charities like Educational Academy Trusts? (I do hope not!)

Janet Walker

October 24, 2019 12:06 PM
Kevin, many thanks. I have referred this to the Trust's CFO. As an academy trust we are both an Exempt Charity and a company limited by guarantee, as well as being answerable to the DfE. Plenty of scope for diverse registers and red tape, as you can imagine!

Kevin Russell

October 17, 2019 2:52 PM
Thank you Peter and Janet for your questions. I had held off of responding as we were due to discuss this with HMRC's Charity Policy Team at a meeting last Monday. However, the topic was taken off of the Agenda as HM Treasury are still currently considering responses received to a public consultation on the Transposition of the Fifth Money Laundering Directive ('5MLD') into UK law.

Peter, yes, a charitable company limited by guarantee will be within the scope of the new Trusts Register.

Janet, I am not familiar with how Academy Trusts are established and this has a bearing on the answer to your question. The Treasury's Consultation Document on 5MLD states:

"5MLD requires the UK to register all UK resident ‘express trusts’ and does not
provide scope for carve outs, exemptions, or de minimis thresholds. The
term ‘express trust’ is generally defined as a trust that was expressly (i.e.
deliberately) created by a settlor, as opposed to being created in other ways
– for example, through a court order or through statute. ...

It goes on to say:

"The government does not expect to specify a full list of types of express trust
within the legislation transposing 5MLD, given the very wide range of ways
in which trusts are used. Rather, the onus will be on trustees and their
agents to determine whether their trust is an express trust or not, on the
basis of the above description (and in due course, through more detailed
guidance). ..."

I hope that helps but if you are still in doubt, I would suggest that you keep an eye out for further HMRC Guidance in the run up to the start date and, if you are still in doubt, to seek appropriate professional advice.


Kevin Russell

January 28, 2020 4:06 PM
UPDATE (28/1/2020) - Good news!

HMRC and HM Treasury have published a Technical Consultation Document which proposes excluding charitable trusts from the scope of the Trusts Registration Service (TRS).

Whilst this clearly proposes excluding charitable trusts that are registered with a UK charity regulator or, if in England and Wales are excepted or exempt from registration (many churches are excepted), it is not clear if the restricted funds of an incorporated charity are excluded. This is a fine technical point and we will seek to clarify this with HMRC ahead of the introduction of the TRS.

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