Are we going to be queuing for an EU passport?

Last week I was invited to Cyprus to visit some clients and catch up with some professionals on the island.

One of my clients, who I will call Ivan, owns a substantial Russian company which specialises in precious stones. He has long taken advantage of the beneficial tax treaty between Russia and Cyprus to extract profits from Russia and then to send them on to the BVI.

Sadly for him both Russia and the BVI were closing in on him and he was concerned. As from January this year, Russia expects every company owned by a Cyprus company to have an office in Cyprus. Ivan has therefore taken space in Limassol, an attractive city on the sea and has mapped out a schedule of visits to coincide with board meeting and annual reports. His company had an apartment in Larnaca, but it was too small for his family.

He was also concerned about the sudden change of direction in the BVI. As a British dependent territory the BVI has to keep a register of wealth owners, their interests and details under the common reporting standard (CRS) which it is under pressure from Britain to make available to the public. It would be bad enough to know that his interests in the BVI would be known to Russia, but for it to be made public was a real worry for him.

Ivan invited me to his office to discuss his options. He confided in me that he had recently remarried and had two daughters under five, but was not seeing them as much as he would like. He was also fearful for their safety. A friend of his who I will call Sasha, had his bank account in Liechtenstein hacked and as a result he and his family were blackmailed; the blackmailer knew all his account details, the names of his family and where his daughters went to school. It was unacceptable to him that his daughters could be at risk from crooks for whom the CRS is a license to print money.

We explored a number of options some of which were very attractive. He was eager to pursue the transfer immediately so that he could sleep at night. 

We then turned to his desire of wanting to spend more time in Cyprus. I suggested that he buy a really nice holiday home in the luxury resort of Paphos which was only 40 minutes from Limassol by car. He could then bring his family with him when he needed to work for the holding company, and spend with them some quality time together.

Cyprus is a destination of choice for 2.5 million tourists every year, who come to enjoy its clear blue waters, ideal climate and sandy beaches. Ivan and I visited some fabulous new residential homes on the seafront which were designed for luxury family life. Ivan was clearly excited.

I pointed out that with a quality home came the added advantage of an EU passport.

This was clearly of interest. As a frequent flyer to European destinations, Ivan was fed up with queuing for immigration and had frequently been caught short by an out of date visa. Cyprus is not only a member of the EU where there is freedom of movement, but has an extensive list of countries which entitle the passport holders visa free travel. Passports would also be available for his wife and two daughters.

The other advantage was that if ever he felt it necessary to leave Russia in a hurry, he had a safe place to which he could retreat where his daughters could enjoy quality education and health care.

As a Citizen of Europe he and his family would also be entitled to a European Health Insurance Card which provides insurance for emergency medical treatment insurance when visiting other participating countries. The look on Ivan’s face said it all, it was just too good to be true.

I said that I could make all the necessary arrangements for him; relocate his wealth and trust from the BVI, introduce him to people for priority property purchases and obtain for him and his family Cyprus passports.

Last week was the first time I had been to Cyprus, but what struck me, in particular, were the people. They were keen to innovate for the benefit of their clients, eager to work with a sense of urgency and exuded a pride in their ability to provide a quality service.

Cyprus was the perfect location for Ivan and his family, and I suspect it could be the perfect location for many others as the world becomes an ever more hostile place for the UHNW families to live.

If you would like to book a meeting with Caroline or one of her colleagues, for estate planning, privacy planning, dispute resolution, matrimonial concerns, offshore trust review or investment strategy, please contact or call 020 3740 7423.

Planning for Brexit

Now that Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have thrown their hats out of the EU ring, maybe we should think of how we could make our country and economy great again.

Switzerland is a safe haven for investors. Lorne Baring of B Capital based in Geneva and London in last weekend’s Spectator said ‘Around 35% of clients are UK based non-doms, so they need to put their money to work in a safe place that’s outside, but not far from Britain, and a place that is in Europe, but not part of the EU. Switzerland fits the bill perfectly.

It also has the ability to attract wealthy individuals to live there and bring with them their wealth for the country to manage.

As a result Switzerland has one of the highest wealth per head.

If Johnson and Gove were to win the referendum, ousted Cameron and Osbourne and had the guts and far sight to do so – they could easily shape the UK along the lines of Switzerland; outside of the EU.

What would I do if asked?

1. Extend the exemptions for remitting monies into the UK tax free, to encourage non doms not only to live here but to bring with them their monies to invest in and with the UK. In this way the country would attract monies out of Switzerland to be invested in the UK for the benefit of the UK economy. 

2. Make the remittance basis of taxation fairer. Currently if Francois who is UK resident but non UK domiciled received an inheritance from his uncle, on which he had earned no interest or made any gain – this money could be remitted into the UK totally tax free, if Francois were eligible for the remittance payment of taxation. This is because only income or gains which are remitted to the UK are taxable – pure capital is not.

Huge amounts of time and money go into people like Francois trying to keeping their capital pure, so that when it is remitted into the UK no tax is payable. Similarly, HMRC spends huge amounts of time and money trying to prove that Francois has in some way got it wrong. If it succeeds in proving Francois has remitted taxable monies he will then have to pay interest and penalties on what he did not declare.

All monies whether capital, income or gains should be subject to income tax  when remitted, with broad exemptions for monies invested in the UK; property, equity, debt or alternative investments. This is fair because it taxes what they spend, but not what they invest, in the UK.

This simple change would cut expenses and make the UK much more attractive for non-doms to live and bring with them their monies

3. Remove the levy on the remittance basis of taxation.

4. Change the excluded property settlement rules for inheritance tax. Currently if a trust is set up offshore and is treated as an ‘excluded property settlement’ all assets treated as non UK situs are outside the scope of inheritance tax. Why not therefore treat such trusts with  trustees and management in the UK resident as if they were offshore. In this way excluded property trusts would be much more transparent to everyone, would create jobs for our trained and skilled trustees and bring more monies into the UK to be managed. The UK invented the trust but we do so little trust work now in the UK. All disputes affecting such trusts should also have access to our UK court system.

5. Introduce an amnesty, for all non doms who bring their excluded property settlements onshore. Most excluded property settlements were set up such a long time ago that not only are records impossible to find, but also the distinction between capital and income has become impossibly blurred. For all excluded property settlements which migrate to the UK there could be an amnesty for any tax liability incurred as a result of inaccuracies in accounting and administration. This would be particularly attractive when the Common Reporting Standard becomes fully operational in 2017 when taxpayers would prefer to locate their wealth to a jurisdiction where the administration and compliance rules are well understood and properly applied.

6. Change the Stamp Duty Land Tax on residential properties to a more modest rate. Currently the rate introduced by George Osborne is at 12% (15% for second homes) which has had a negative impact on the collection of tax. It would appear that the tax take for Westminster, and Kensington and Chelsea, which used to account for more than Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Northern England has since 2013/14 fallen by half. This is a great example of the Laffer curve, which shows that if the rate of tax is put up to a level at which the taxpayer will not pay the collection of tax goes down.

Our country needs to find the rate of stamp duty land tax at which the maximum tax is collected and not just what rate is likely to win the most votes.

If you have any comments please please call on 020 3740 7423 or email 

If you think any or all of the above could increase your ability to win business in the UK and thereby improve our economy please forward this to your MP or to any influential politician, journalist or friend so that we can start to formulate a strategy post Brexit.

What is going on?


Last week I met with an elderly residential property expert, James. He has spent a lifetime watching property buying trends and the current market conditions were not a surprise to him.

Just before Christmas James had paid a visit to Asia, and a colleague of his is currently in the Middle East. From their meetings they remained convinced that the appetite for residential property in the UK remained strong. The UK is safe, it remained buzzing and is still the place UHNW families wanted to be.

He pointed out that this contention was supported by the unusually strong market for lettings and for commercial property. The only area where the market is weak is the residential agency sector, and this he said was skewing the other sectors. Whereas clients who usually come to London at this time of year would be looking for good residential property for their portfolio, they were now hunting down good commercial property because the stamp duty was 4% not 12%.

Buying a home however is very different from buying a commercial property, he went on. It is more akin to an investment of passion; it can be personalised to the tastes of the family, it can create status and deepen relationships. Inviting a business prospect in to your home is much more personal than meeting in a hotel lobby or restaurant.

The current increase in buyers for residential homes in January he said was due to the announcement of an increase in SDLT for second homes as from 1st April from 12% to 15%. However this blip would soon evaporate after 1st April as the market adjusts to the new rate of tax.

What, I asked, was the cause, not so much for the weakness in the market, but which is due to the hike in stamp duty, but the length of time it is taking before it is absorbed into the price? In his opinion the continued lack of confidence was due to confusion as to how structure the acquisition – if an offshore company provided little or no benefit how should the investment now be structured.

James was clearly plugged in to the mood of the market so I asked him about the market response to ATED. Why were so many homes of non UK residents still owned through offshore companies despite the exponential rise of ATED? The tax costs on homes above £2million are now considerable, even for those rich enough to pay them as I set out below.

Property Value     ATED         Inheritance Tax (exc nil rate)

£2m-£5m            £23,350       £800k-£2m

£5-£10m             £54,450       £2m-£4m

£10-£20m           £109,050     £4m-£8m

£20m+                £218,200     £8m+

James explained that the reason why the higher residential market is depressed could be in part the same reason why people were slow to de-envelope - a lack of confidence as to how to structure the investment.  Confidence would return as soon as buyers and home owners knew what the options were under the new regime.

In my opinion, what is needed is old fashioned tax planning, knowing how the taxes work, what reliefs are available and putting them together well.

Six top planning tips

  1. Be clear as to the long term intentions with regard to the property you own or are planning to buy
  2. If you are concerned as to your privacy own the property through a company as a nominee
  3. Be sure that the right person owns the property - multiple ownerships are not usually a good ide
  4. Make sure you know who is to inherit the property and plan accordingly
  5. If the investment is for life – think about CGT
  6. Plan to avoid inheritance tax – it need not be paid in full if at all, multiple ownership is often NOT the best solution.

James was excited; he wanted me to come to his office and explain my planning tips to his sales team. Once they were clear as to what could be done he was sure confidence would return and buying and restructuring would pick up.

If you would like to know more about my six top planning tips, please contact for a further discussion.

UHNW families are looking to family offices for independent, neutral advice

There is a misconception that people who have a lot of money have excellent advisers who look after all their problems.

This is of course true for families with family offices, but for those who do not, or their family office only looks after their investments, the industry is confusing. It is made up of specialists and until recently there were very few general practitioners to whom they could turn for guidance. This has been recognised and family offices are now being set up to provide independent, neutral and general advice.

In the medical profession there are numerous independent and unbiased general practitioners. If you have a pain you go to your doctor who may refer you to a specialist having diagnosed what the problem is likely to be. If it does not get fixed you go back to your doctor to discuss with them any ongoing concerns.

Imagine a medical profession without a doctor and then you will get some idea the frustration the UHNW community experiences in finding a good advisor for a variety of concerns. Without a general practitioner they need first to recognise their problem – without the early warning sign of pain, analyse who best to serve them, instruct them, monitor progress and at the same time stop fees running out of control. UHNW families are not always loyal because they have found an adviser they trust, but because there has not until recently been a general practitioner to turn to for an independent neutral opinion.

David came to see me Monday afternoon; he has a home in the UK which he owns through a company in Jersey. He lives in Switzerland and is anxious about the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings which is approaching; this year it will cost him in excess of £100,000. His trustees in Jersey have told him that it will take between six to eight weeks to de-envelope. He sought advice from his lawyer as soon as George Osborne said his house would be subject to inheritance tax as from 2017, but was told to wait until the Government paper on ATED is published. It was promised to be forthcoming after the summer recess, but there is still no sign of it and his lawyer is away for the next few weeks abroad.

David is cynical. ‘The Government only wants another round of ATED collection. The tax on homes owned through offshore companies has been a ‘windfall’. I suspect we won’t have the consultation paper until it is too late to get our properties out of offshore companies. If I want to de-envelope by the 1st April, I need to start the process at the latest in early February which is in two weeks or I face another year’s tax. My lawyer seems to think that paying another year’s tax excess of £100,000 is somehow fine – well it is not!’

Of course I was unable to comment, but told him that ATED and IHT on UK real estate was not going away and there were a number of options. Which option was best for him was dependent on his life expectancy, circumstances and priorities. It became clear after some discussion that David was planning to sell his home as soon as his wife and children no longer wanted to come to London together. His children were now in their early twenties and would soon want homes of their own.  His intention was therefore to sell in four years.

David easily made up his mind as to what he wanted to do. I said I could introduce him to an advisor who would quickly and inexpensively provide a tax audit of his offshore structure and then I would make sure the protector gave the necessary instructions to liquidate the Jersey Company.

David would then own his home directly with his wife as joint tenants.

David was delighted; he was able to get on with what he was convinced was the right thing to do, save many thousands of pounds of tax, and feel in control of his planning.

In David’s opinion his advisers had become complacent. Their holidays and international travel seemed to be of greater importance than the concerns of their clients. Although he had known his advisers for many years David felt they only ever responded when prodded and had never once picked up the phone to warn him of any dangers or to show real interest in his concerns.

If David is not alone in his frustrations, the industry which serves the UHNW community may not only face increased dangers of litigation from clients and HMRC– as I noted last week, but as the number of family offices which provide independent estate and succession planning advice grows so may the dissatisfaction with existing advisers become evident by business going elsewhere.


Are you committing a crime?

To quote the Government: ‘Tax evasion is a crime which this Government is determined to stamp out because it deprives the country of much needed funds to run our public services, unfairly placing a greater burden on the vast majority of people who pay their fair share of tax. This Government will be relentless in its pursuit of evaders. For too long it has been too easy for people to hide their money overseas to evade tax.’

Everyone agrees with this, but wait a minute.

One of our clients, who is French, has two homes in London which he visits once or twice a year. His wife wants to decorate them before she visits, whereas he doesn’t because he views at as a waste of money considering they come to London rarely and spend most of their time in France. I wrote to him about his liability for ATED and he replied that he didn’t even know he is subject to the tax.

Under French tax law he only has to pay tax if his centres of economic interests are in France. It hadn’t occurred to him that by having a residential property in the UK owned by a company in Jersey, he is now subject to an annual tax. However according to HMRC he is evading tax and committing a crime.

As with Francois, the most vulnerable are the non doms. They have a home in the UK and might be living in London for most of the time, but were not born here, so are not familiar with our laws and ways of doing things. Most will not have formed the intention to evade taxes they do not think to ask or even know who to ask. However, HMRC now has the powers to find out who these people are, whether from exchange of information from other countries, or by working with the land registry.

Is the taxpayer’s charter of any help?

Frankly – no.

HMRC promises to treat taxpayer’s with respect, allow them to be represented and try to keep costs down provided they do not suspect them of evading tax.

In fact one of the rights published in the February 2009 draft was to ‘pursue relentlessly those that break or bend the rules’.

The only redress these unwitting taxpayers have for tax evasion will be against their advisers. The professionals who advised them to set up a structure to avoid tax and then did not subsequently warn them of the change of law.

These professionals may also come under attack from HMRC in being complicit in a taxpayer evading tax; knowing a structure was set up and operated for a client and then failing to contact them to tell them that tax was due may be enough for HMRC to go on the offensive to professionals whether lawyers, accountants or trustees who have set up these structures for their clients.

To give an example; ABC and partners advised Bhavik in 2008 to buy his home through an offshore company XYZ Limited. Chester Bank Ltd has offices in Jersey, London and Singapore and manages XYZ Limited for Bhavik for which Bhavik pays a fee. Bhavik is neither resident nor domiciled in the UK. Although he is liable for ATED since 2013, he rarely comes to London and was not aware of this tax.

Does Bhavik have a claim against ABC and partners for putting him into a structure to avoid tax and failing to notify him that the law had changed? Does he have a right against Chester Bank Ltd which manages XYZ Limited which failed to tell him that the law had changed even though they categorically state that they do not give tax advice? Has HMRC got a right against ABC and partners and or Chester Bank Ltd for failing to report the structure and possible evasion of tax?