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EU to force Britons to publish details of wills and property
09 February 2014 @ 23:11

A bill being debated in Brussels would force UK citizens to disclose 'reams' of private, financial information on a public register.

New legislation planned in Brussels is set to heap fresh costs and paperwork on families’ financial planning, as well as leaving their affairs open to unwanted public scrutiny.

A European law is being drafted whose original aim was to prevent corporate money-laundering. The objective, supported by the UK, was to force companies to disclose on a register the money and other assets held inside trusts or equivalent legal arrangements.

But officials in Brussels have widened out the proposals as the bill has evolved, to include trusts. The effect could be to force millions of families to compile elaborate accounts of their assets and financial arrangements including insurance policies, property and bequests made in their wills, for entry into a register. And that register, if legislators get their way, could be made available to any member of the public.

British lawyers and tax experts are baffled by the potential implications. Most are bitterly opposed to the costs and intrusion that could result. The use of trusts or what the EU would define as “legal arrangements” is commonplace in Britain and Ireland, but not elsewhere in Europe. As a result many run-of-the-mill transactions between British individuals, or between individuals and financial institutions, would fall within the net of the law if applied to the UK. Similar transactions in Europe would not be affected, lawyers say.

Richard Frimston, partner at solicitors Russell-Cooke, said: “The European Parliament thinks all trusts are the work of the devil designed to aid tax dodgers. But trusts are an integral part of English law and underpin the most everyday of transactions.” ............

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