The government’s Register of Trusts – are you up to date?

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It’s not about tax

Many trustees will be aware that their trust is on a government Register. The trust was probably registered by their tax agent, as it may have been necessary to register in order to obtain a tax reference. The tax agent will be the one to tick the box on the Tax Returns to indicate the trust’s details are up to date. Nevertheless, the Trust Register has little to do with tax.

What’s it about?

The Register was born out of EU Anti-Money Laundering Regulations which required all Member States to implement a central register of beneficial ownership for trusts. A more recent Anti-Money Laundering Directive has extended the scope of trusts that need to be registered and a new wave of registrations will follow over the next couple of years.  

The acts of updating the Register and making an annual declaration confirming it is up to date are requirements of the Anti-Money Laundering Regulations. It’s not about tax.


The Trustees are responsible annually for ensuring the register is updated, or for declaring the details are correct, and it can only be done online. Any changes as at 5 April 2020 need to be notified by 31 January 2021 or a declaration made that the details are up to date. An agent can be appointed to do this for them, but it requires the trustees to:
  • open a Government Gateway account
  • ‘claim’ their trust through this account
  • authorise an agent to act
Any existing agent authorisation is not valid for this purpose. We will be working with our trustee clients to obtain authorisation but there are a number of problems with the service at present. Trustees should therefore be prepared to open a Gateway account, ‘claim’ the trust and update it themselves, if necessary.

Estate Register

In addition to trusts, complex estates are included on a government register too. Estates are not covered by the Anti-Money Laundering Directives. The Estate Register was developed alongside the Trust Register to give a platform for complex Estates to register for self-assessment. This is just about tax.

Written by Barry Luscombe in our London office.