In our last Update we reported on the lack of clarity regarding how new money laundering regulations, which came into force on 26 June 2017, applied to pension schemes.
There are broadly two elements to the requirements: (a) a requirement for trustees to maintain records of "beneficial owners"; and (b) a potential requirement for trustees to provide specified information to HMRC by 31 January. HMRC has now published guidance which includes a section on HMRC's approach when applying the regulations to occupational pension schemes. Key points are:
- confirmation that, although not all schemes will be required to provide information to HMRC, HMRC does take the view that the record-keeping requirements under the regulations will generally apply to occupational pension schemes;
- confirmation that scheme administrator liability for an annual allowance charge, lifetime allowance charge and various other tax charged relating to a specific member benefits do not trigger an obligation to provide information to HMRC under the regulations. So for practical purposes, whether the trustees will be required to provide information to HMRC will normally depend on whether the trustees have incurred a stamp duty liability (eg as a result of holding shares or property directly) in the previous tax year;
- if a scheme is required to provide information to HMRC, it will only be required to identify beneficiaries by class rather than by name if the number of named beneficiaries exceeds ten;
- for the purposes of the regulations, HMRC regards the "settlor" as being the original employer. If that employer has ceased to participate, HMRC is content with details of the original and current participating employers only rather than regarding as settlors all employers that have ever participated; and
- where details of asset values have to be provided to HMRC, it is content for information from the latest scheme accounts to be used, provided they provide a reasonably good estimate of the market value of the assets at the point when the scheme is first registered with the trust registration service under the money laundering regulations.
The regulations are not specifically targeted at pension schemes, but non-compliance is a criminal offence if trustees have not taken all reasonable steps to comply. Trustees should consider in the light of HMRC's guidance whether there is any action they need to take in order to comply.