The “Climate Change” in the 2nd STEP Global Congress

The second STEP Global Congress was held in NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, Amsterdam from 30 June 2016 to 1 July 2016.  More than 300 delegates and over 40 distinguished speakers from over 47 countries comprising mainly of the trust and estate practitioners attended this be-annual event. 

The first day of the global congress started with the panel discussing on whether trust is still a viable arrangement given that the taxman, the regulators and the banks dislike them, and most clients are still confused over them and to certain extend, civilians are suspicious of them.  The water gets murkier when other panel sessions examines the collision of succession law and the tax law on how inheritance laws of one place often confer property rights which are taxed differently in another.  The day ends with a panel examining an interesting but important topic on the definition of “the other half” where the traditional definition of spouse is challenged given the recognition of same-sex marriage or registration of same-sex partners in different jurisdictions.  The discussion throws up challenges for trustees in the administration of trusts where such issues will surface now and very much so in future.    

The second day congress has an overarching theme of transparency following the implementation of US FATCA and the newly OECD implemented tax information exchange regime commonly called the CRS.  The day started and unsurprising a panel that includes a representative from OECD on the readiness of countries that signed up for the automatic tax information exchange.  Again, and unsurprisingly, many questions were expected from to floor to the representative from the OECD.  The rest of the panel discussions on the second day revolve around the theme of transparency where it examines on managing the risks by practitioners, over reporting of information, service providers being tax agents etc.  The highlight of the second day was a talk by the author of The Laundrymen, Mr Jeffrey Robinson where it amuse the audience with its examples but underlies with an important and serious message on fraud that we faces today.

The general takeaway from the two day conference is that this is a new era and the environment in the wealth management space will be getting more challenging.  OECD member countries are calling for even greater transparency such as registration for trusts and disclosure of beneficial owners to the public.  This does cause great concern among the practitioners and perhaps will be the new theme for the 3rd congress.


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