This is the first in a series of legal updates for the Private Client sector. A summary of key legal developments over the past week is as follows.

Trusts Register – HMRC guidance

The long-awaited HMRC guidance on the Trust Register was published this week in a new Trust Registration Service Manual. However, confirmation is still awaited on the registration deadline for non-taxable express trusts. The new Manual refers to HMRC's intention to extend the current deadline of 10 March 2022 to "later in 2022", with the precise date to be confirmed "later in 2021". Trust Registration Service Manual - HMRC internal manual - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Online probate applications

On 14 May 2021, HMCTS published a new guide to the online probate application system. This includes the announcement that, by the end of 2021, solicitors will no longer have to get their clients to sign the statement of truth when applying for a grant of probate. The reasons are not clear, nor is whether it will be replaced by an alternative way of requiring applicants to verify the facts of the application and acknowledge their duties as executors. HMCTS services: Probate online - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

HMRC and discovery assessments

The UK Supreme Court has rejected HMRC’s appeal in MRC v Tooth, 2021 UKSC 17 but has made an important ruling that will assist HMRC pursuing underpaid tax. In this case, HMRC raised a discovery assessment in 2014 on the basis of tax liabilities arising in 2007, but the tax-payer argued that the discovery was "stale" as it did not consist of anything that HMRC did not already know. The Supreme Court disagreed with any concept of "staleness" as a defence for the taxpayer in these circumstances. The case represents a "significant victory for HMRC in its pursuit of old tax avoidance cases". UKSC invalidates staleness as a defence against discovery assessments | STEP

Entrepreneurs' relief and pre-trading disposals

In Wardle v HMRC [2021] UKFTT 124 (TC), entrepreneurs' relief was claimed under s.169I Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992 (TCGA 1992) for a material disposal of business assets. The assets in question were disposed of by a partnership before it commenced trading. The First Tier Tribunal denied relief on the basis that the assets were not those of "a business" since s.169S(1) of TCGA 1992 requires there to be a trade conducted on a commercial basis with a view to the realisation of profits. Activities in preparation for trading did not suffice. This contrasts with the position for shares in a trading company where the pre-incorporation period  can be taken into account. Entrepreneurs' relief not available for partnership's pre-trading disposal of assets (First-tier Tribunal) | Practical Law (thomsonreuters.com)

OECD report on inheritance tax

On 11 May 2021, the OECD published a report: "Inheritance Taxation in OECD Countries". This provides an assessment of inheritance, estate and gift taxes across the 37-members of the OECD, and explores a range of reform options. The report found that 24 of the OECD countries currently levy inheritance/ estate taxes; however, these taxes typically raise very little revenue (0.5% of total tax revenues). We know that the UK government is looking at simplifying the design of inheritance tax following the Office of Tax Simplification's "Review of Inheritance Tax" in 2018. Inheritance, estate and gift taxes could play a stronger role in addressing inequality and improving public finances - OECD