Part 6: What God Hath Wrought – The #FATCA Inquisition (Review, Identify and Report on “U.S. Persons”) – Breaking open the Family Trust one country at a time

Introduction

Part 5 of this series introduced the idea of the “Great FATCA Entity Hunt”. The key is to seek “USness” hiding behind ANY entity anywhere in the world.

Not even the lowly family trust is safe from suspicion of a possible U.S. connection. In fact, FATCA is “breaking open” family trust outside the USA. Gotta make sure that there is NO U.S. involvement. Really, you can’t make this kind of intrusiveness up.

In each of the following two examples, notice how is is local accountants who are carrying the search for “U.S. persons”. All “entities” throughout the world are under suspicion of being American.

First, let’s begin with a family trust in the U.K.

The post referenced in the above tweet includes:

The first Charles and Margaret Stewart knew about FATCA was when, earlier this month, a letter arrived from their accountant, Grant Thornton, warning that a “review” was required into a trust they had established for their daughter in 2004. The letter said: “There are certain steps you need to take. The starting point will be to carry out a detailed review…” It estimated the initial costs would be £350 plus VAT, possibly more, “based upon the time spent on the matter”.

The Stewarts established the trust 10 years ago to buy a property for their adult, dependant daughter, in order to safeguard the property as her home for as long as she needs to live there. The property, near Charles’s and Margaret’s own home in Leicestershire, generates no income. None of Mr Stewart, 74, pictured, his wife Margaret, or their daughter has any US connections.

Although it was established for wholly innocent reasons, this trust along with an estimated 100,000 others now falls within the far-reaching scope of FATCA.

Once the review is undertaken, if the accountant is satisfied the trust does not need to fulfil any further obligations under FATCA, there are no further costs – and no information will be passed on to HMRC or the American authorities. “This whole process seems extraordinary,” said Mr Stewart. “The trust just has a property inside that is not providing any income so I don’t understand why it needs to be reviewed, simply to satisfy regulation introduced by another country.”

In its letter, Grant Thornton is mildly apologetic, saying it “regrets having to write about new compliance requirements and related costs” but adds “this is something that will have to be dealt with.”

It is not alone as other accountancy firms are also carrying out reviews and are charging for their services, with “initial review” fees ranging from £200 to £500. Although most high-profile firms refuse to publicly criticise FATCA, in private they condemn the measures as “indiscriminate” and “blunt”.

Gary Heynes, a tax partner at rival accountant Baker Tilly, said the firm had started mailing affected clients over the past week. Mr Heynes said: “It is extraordinary that a trust with no US assets and no US beneficiaries can be subject to these US reporting requirements and need to be reviewed.”

Ronnie Ludwig, of accountancy firm Saffery Champness, said: “These US regulations are a complete nightmare for trustees to get their heads around. We will be spending a lot of our time reviewing each of our client’s trusts between now and the end of October.”

Second, they have trusts in New Zealand too

The article referenced in the above tweet includes:

FATCA (the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) came into force in July 2014. It is far-reaching and may impose a compliance burden on the trustees of New Zealand family trusts, even if no US persons are involved.

IRD has recently issued further draft guidance on the application of FATCA to trusts and in particular, on the circumstances when New Zealand family trusts will be financial institutions for FATCA purposes.

Background

FATCA is a US initiative designed to target US taxpayers who evade US tax by hiding assets offshore. It requires foreign (i.e. non-US) financial institutions (FFIs) to register with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and undertake due diligence to identify and report on accounts that US persons hold with them. FFIs that do not comply are subject to a 30% withholding on US-sourced income.

Under the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) signed between New Zealand and the US, New Zealand agreed to implement rules to require and enable all New Zealand FFIs to comply with their FATCA obligations and, in exchange, the US agreed to treat all New Zealand FFIs as deemed compliant.

All FFIs were required to register with the IRS by 31 December 2014. However, notwithstanding this, there has been considerable uncertainty in relation to whether, and if so, how, FATCA applies to New Zealand family trusts that on their face may have no obvious US connection.

Conclusion:

It’s the job of trusts around the world to:

1. Review the trust
2. Identify any U.S. persons
3. Report those U.S. persons to the appropriate authorities.

Every person and every entity is under suspicion of being a “U.S. Person” now! In the new FATCA world, it is no longer possible to have any “trust” in your “trust”.