Issues with trust registrations illuminate MTD pitfalls

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The Trust Registration Service (TRS) has been creating endless problems for tax advisers, as to access it they must first register for an Agents Service Account (ASA).

Purpose of TRS

The TRS is an example of an over-engineered solution for a problem that may not exist, a bit like MTD. The government has required a central register of all UK trusts to be set up in response to the EU Fourth Money Laundering Directive.

As its name implies, the aim of this EU directive is to reduce opportunities for money laundering which supports criminal and terrorist activities. However, a national risk assessment undertaken by the Home Office and HM Treasury found that there is very little evidence of UK trusts being abused for money-laundering, and no evidence of trusts being used for terrorist financing.

In spite of this lack of evidence, the Trust Registration Service was launched on 10 July 2017, although tax agents were not given access to it until 17 October 2017.


All new trusts and complex estates for deceased persons must be registered with the TRS before a UTR number can be issued for that trust/estate. Form 41G (trusts) to register trusts and estates with HMRC was withdrawn on 1 May 2017.

The deadline for registering trusts created in 2016/17 would normally be 5 October 2017, but that deadline was pushed back to 5 December, as the TRS wasn’t open to tax agents at the earlier date. After pressure from the CIOT and ICAEW, this registration deadline has been extended to 5 January 2018.

However, all existing trusts must also register with the TRS in order to submit a self-assessment tax return for 2016/17 or later year. The deadline for these trusts to register is 31 January 2018, but the ICAEW, CIOT and ATT have asked for that deadline to be moved back to at least 5 April 2018.

Agents Service Account

The first problem agents come up against when trying to access the TRS is the authorisation to act. HMRC requires tax agents to be authorised through the new Agent Services Account (ASA), which is being developed as part of MTD, but it is still only in the pilot phase. The normal authorisation route through the government gateway, which is used for most other HMRC services, doesn’t work for the TRS.

Tax agents without an ASA can’t access the TRS. What’s more, each firm can only have one ASA which is linked to its UTR number, as that account will be used to access all the services needed for MTD.

HMRC has warned: “The Agent Services account will be the central point of contact with HMRC in the future, so it may not be appropriate for this to be set up by the trust team without consulting the wider firm.”

The link to set up the ASA won’t be made available on until 20 November. In the meantime, tax agents should be able to access the ASA setup procedure through the TRS page. The HMRC computer system should identify that the government gateway credentials entered are those of a registered tax agent, and will direct you to email HMRC to request the link to set up an ASA for your firm.

What is needed

The information required to register a trust is quite extensive, and in many cases it may not all be held by the tax agent. For example, details of the beneficiaries include; dates of birth, NI number, passport number and address. The ATT has published a technical briefing to help tax agents understand what is needed for the TRS and the penalties which may apply for non-compliance. 

All existing trusts must be registered through the TRS, even where HMRC has held details of the trust for many years. The TRS has not been pre-populated with information HMRC already holds, so the tax agent or trustee must input all that information again. It is possible to save an incomplete form in the TRS, but you can’t skip questions to go back to later.

If a trustee has started populating the register, the tax agent can’t continue the process or review what the trustee has done.

Further information

HMRC is running a talking points webinar for tax agents about the TRS on Friday 17 November 2017. If you have trust tax returns to submit this season it may well be worthwhile registering for that webinar to find out how you can avoid the pitfalls of TRS.

About Rebecca Cave

Consulting tax editor for I also co-author several annual tax books for Bloomsbury Professional and write newsletters for other publishers.


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16th Nov 2017 13:34

We can't register as our UTR (which has never changed) doesn't match with the "original" postcode (we have only ever had two postcodes so have tried both, with and without spaces). They did say we were not the only ones - so, we have now had our problem escalated to technical support with a promise of a call back in 48 hours. That was 72 hours ago.......

Thanks for the webinar link - I've registered and will tune in!

Thanks (1)
By P&G
16th Nov 2017 15:09

This is a grade one [***] up caused by HMRC failing to listen and properly consult, aided of course, by them alienating genuine IT contractors to fix this set up.

I have no problem with the EC Directive as such but as usual HMRC try a sledge hammer to crack a nut, then absolve themselves from blame and leave the agent to pick up the mess.

Rather than continually putting back the deadline (who in their right minds would want to try to join the new ASA less than a month from SA deadline) they simply need to bring back 41G (Trust) and try to get the thing sorted ahead of next year's SA cycle.

Thanks (5)
By TessaW
16th Nov 2017 19:04

Thanks for the tip on the postcode. I hadn't previously noticed that HMRC have an old post code for my address. Have now registered using that old post code & the registration system didn't care that I put the new post code in the address section.
Trust registration form is poorly laid out. I guessed that you start with agent details & address but it is completely unclear. Have filled in some basic details and saved it and have until mid December to carry on.
I am completely unclear as to what the agent services account is as compared to my other agent accounts. I was asked if I wanted to transfer over my other services but didn't think that was going to be safe, so have just left the agent services to deal with trust registrations at the moment.

Thanks (4)
16th Nov 2017 19:25

Pleased it worked for you!

Where did you find that postcode?

It's not accepting ours from our current filing notices nor from our previous office (which we owned when the Internet was first "invented") and would have been where we originally became online agents.

I'm going nowhere until I can find the postcode HMRC want me to use. And they aren't ringing me back as promised either.

Any clues on where I might find it would be gratefully accepted!

Thanks (0)
By DonDan
17th Nov 2017 11:00

We have a handful of existing trusts, most of whom we have already filed 16/17 tax returns via our Iris software.

Would the 31st Jan 18 registration deadline discussed above apply to the trusts with returns that have already been filed?


Thanks (0)
By TessaW
18th Nov 2017 09:03

Sorry Kaylee - the old postcode that worked for me was from the current filing notice for my firm.

Thanks (1)
to TessaW
18th Nov 2017 09:33

TessaW wrote:

Sorry Kaylee - the old postcode that worked for me was from the current filing notice for my firm.

Thanks. Oh well, that's not working for me. We will try again next week. Still not received the promised phone call. This week I've spent over 10 hours on this and GDPR and I'm really no further forward on either. I'm beginning to think it's the start of the end of the small firm.

Thanks (1)
19th Nov 2017 21:53

i managed to set up the agents services account but no tax services were transferred ,
but to register the trusts had to log in through trust registration pages .
no existing cases were listed or data transferred . can’t see the pages and info required but have to complete each page as you go . HMRC ADR had the dates the trusts were set up . complete waste of time

Thanks (1)
20th Nov 2017 09:19

New guidance posted on on Friday:
on registering trusts:
on registering estates:
Estates guidance doesn't mention revised deadline

Thanks (1)
20th Nov 2017 10:55

I am trying to register an existing trust with a dead settlor.
I have to enter her country of residence and all sorts of other stuff.............I will send her an email.

And the trust was set up by mother for children and I have had to enter the same address three or four times already. Why can't they just copy and paste the LPA system which works well.

Thanks (0)
By Utopia
to Comptable
25th Nov 2017 15:18

I too have been registering a trust where the settlor has passed away. The form wanted the settlor's phone number. Like the rest of the online form I found I could not progress to the next page if I left the field blank. I put it to HMRC that I am not aware that there are any phones in heaven and they told me to put my number. I had to lie in order to continue with the registration. Talk about a dog's dinner...

Thanks (1)
to Utopia
26th Nov 2017 16:13

You could have put HMRC's phone number. It would have been just as correct. And like any phone call to Heaven or Hell it just rings and rings and nobody ever answers.

Thanks (0)
20th Nov 2017 11:12

Another mess of a system due to failure to consult with the people who matter- agents.

We could have told them how to set it up, what information to transfer from existing details on their other systems and how to design a set up form that allows a basic set up and then sends reminders for missing information.

Just another unnecessary department and more paperwork.

Thanks (4)
20th Nov 2017 11:14

I am at a complete loss as to what to do. We have tried again to register this morning - no luck. I am waiting on HMRC technical to call me back - the promised 48 hours but we are at about 4 working days now - how much longer?

Thanks (0)
20th Nov 2017 11:42

Well I registered 6 trusts before the agent access was mentioned. What a pain it is to have to enter the same info over and over again.

Even so, i have 2 that are going to be a problem:

a) one has 2 corporate trustees, and the screens only allow for one

b) has a missing beneficiary - on which legal advice is being sought. We have no NI/UTR to provide to track them down either!

Thanks (0)
By inki54b
20th Nov 2017 13:04

Rules require a foreign (offshore ?) trust to register where there is a U.K. beneficiary. This is not possible if the agent is foreign, with no UTR, and with no UK postcode.
The trustee or beneficiary is 'unlikely' to be in a position to make the registration.
HMRC are of the opinion think this may need to be handled in paper form ?

Thanks (0)
20th Nov 2017 13:51

Being an accountant who has to deal with HMRC is fast becoming worse than being a toilet cleaner in the 3rd world.
Have two trust and frantically trying to get them to shut it down as not needed. The other I must suffer the pain I suppose.

Thanks (1)
20th Nov 2017 14:50

I attended the HMRC webinar on Agent Registration for MTD so was hopeful all would be straight forward to register for Trusts. In October I requested permision to register (as original instructed) and received the links to follow in HMRC email dated 19 October. Since then "impossible!".

After signing in using our Gateway ID and entering the partnership UTR and postcode (we have been here over 16 years!), the next page states "There is no agent business linked to this account"

Online help are still looking into it!!!!!!

Can anybody help? Rebecca?

Thanks (3)
to p.seligman
20th Nov 2017 15:05

This is exactly our position. Looking for help too!

Thanks (0)
to p.seligman
27th Nov 2017 11:50

After several weeks of chasing the Online Help team at HMRC, I can now report they have fixed whatever problem existed and my firm are now the proud owner of a new MTD ready HMRC Agent Services Account!

Thanks (0)
21st Nov 2017 12:34

I have managed to set up an ASA, but am nervous of trying to register any trust. This whole exercise seems to be badly conceived, badly executed and takes absolutely no account of service to the "customer". I am reminded of Emile Woolf's expression " the staggering arrogance of the public sector".
Setting such tight deadlines for a massively time consuming exercise is crass in the extreme. All we are trying to do is meet compliance requirements for our clients, but there is the usual army of bureaucrats trying to slow down or destroy the system.

Thanks (0)