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HMRC consults on low income trusts and estates

HMRC is consulting on legislative proposals to remove trusts and death estates with small amounts of income from income tax

Back in 2016, following tax on bank and building society interest no longer being deducted at source, HMRC introduced an arrangement to ensure that new burdens did not arise on those managing trusts and estates whose only income consists of small amounts of savings interest. This reflected the fact that following the introduction of the Personal Savings Allowance from the same date, around 95% of savers were expected to be no longer liable for tax on this interest.

However, trustees of trusts and personal representatives (PRs) of death estates do not have tax allowances in the same way as individuals do. As a result, with the payment of interest gross, even the trustees and PRs of the smallest trusts and estates would have become liable to file a self-assessment return when they hadn’t previously had to do so. HMRC’s arrangement therefore removed trustees and PRs from income tax where the only source of income for the trust or estate is savings interest and the tax liability is below £100. This arrangement was intended to be a temporary arrangement pending a longer-term solution.

The new consultation, which runs until 18 July 2022, seeks views on proposals to formalise and extend that concession.

Under the latest proposals, low-income trusts and estates with income from any source up to a ‘de minimis’ amount (to be decided following this consultation) will not be subject to income tax on that income.

For trusts and estates with income more than the de minimis amount, income tax will be due on the full amount of income rather than only applying to the income above the de minimis amount. This is in the interests of simplification for both taxpayers and HMRC, as the rules required to take the alternative approach would be complicated and require additional administration for all involved.

Tax pools apply to discretionary trusts and keep track of income tax the trustees pay. When trustees make a discretionary payment of income it is treated by the beneficiary as if income tax has already been paid at the trust rate (currently 45%); and the trustees must have paid enough income tax (in the current or previous years) to cover this ‘tax credit’. Under these proposals, even where discretionary trusts would be covered by the de minimis rule, they will still have to pay tax when they pay income out to a beneficiary, to ensure that the tax credit remains funded.

HMRC’s impact assessment points out that this measure is expected to have an impact on an estimated 28,000 individuals overall. It is expected to simplify the administration of tax in the majority of cases by avoiding the need for people to claim refunds; but some people are expected to have to return and pay the tax due, where previously that would have been done by the trustees.

We will update you on any developments.

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Note that non-taxable trusts are required to register on the TRS. All trusts which are not “excluded trusts” have to be registered by 1 September 2022 or within 90 days from the trust’s creation, whichever is later. Any new registrable trusts set up from 1 September 2022 will have to be registered within 90 days. So, even if a trust does not need to register as a taxable trust, it may still need to be registered as a non-taxable trust (unless it is an excluded trust).