STEP Symposium - Focus on the Family  (28 June 2012, Shalom Theatrette) 


Earlier this year, in late June, STEP Singapore held its half-day symposium, entitled "Focus on the Family".  Perhaps the title should have been extended to add the words "in trouble" as the discussions looked at the impact of divorce in some detail!

The event, even after a very last minute shift in venue, was very well attended and the full house were well rewarded by attending a riveting afternoon of presentations from experts in Singapore and from around the world.

Each speaker was not only very erudite, but by illustrating principles with real life examples the audience could understand the true impact of the actions of desperate husbands/housewives on matrimonial property, custody and other issues. 

The first session at this Symposium, presented by Ms Engelin Teh, SC, Engelin Teh Practice LLP, examined the practical issues affecting the “Division of Matrimonial Assets”.

The second speaker, Mr.Yap Teong Liang, of TL Yap & Associates discussed “Pre-nuptials & Post-nuptials as a Preventative Measure in Divorce” and looked at the effectiveness of these arrangements under Singapore law.

“Trust as an Instrument for Divorce Planning" was delivered by Mr. Nick Jacob of Lawrence Graham LLP who looked at how planning can avoid problems that would otherwise arise as a consequence of a divorce of settlors and beneficiaries.

Finally, an interactive panel discussion on “Trusts in Messy Divorces – Challenges & Opportunities” brought together Mr. Ronald Choo of Rajah & Tann LLP, Ms. Jennie Tan Siok Kim of British & Malayan Trustees Ltd,  Dr. Britta Pfister of Rothschild Trust and Nick Jacob.

There was a good Q&A session and very positive feedback after the event.  As a consequence, the STEP Committee will be looking to follow up with further seminars on this area next year.

Contributed by James Aitken - HSBC  Trustee (Singapore) Ltd

International Pressures on Switzerland: Only A First Step? (21 May 2012, FTSE Room, Capital Tower)


The speaker for the seminar Jan Langlo, Senior Wealth Planner with Rhone Trust and Fiduciary Services SA spent a good hour giving the audience the background to the Swiss challenges in the last three years relating to mounting international pressures to exchange more tax information. This included (i) the application of the OECD standard on the exchange of tax information, (ii) the resolution of the Swiss banks' tax issues with the United States, (iii) the implementation of FATCA, (iv) the constant push of the European Union in favour of an automatic exchange of information and (v) the introduction of a criminal offence related to direct taxes as a prelude to money laundering.


Jan highlighted that since March 2009, Switzerland has negotiated or revised more than 40 DTAs that include the administrative assistance clause according to Article 26 of the OECD Model Tax Convention. Switzerland in its first phase of the peer review exam by the Global Forum, may well have to recognize that all countries may identify their taxpayers << typically by their names >> but also by other means such as their address, their date of birth or their account number, as long as there can be no doubt about the result. As for its revised DTA with the United States, approved by the Swiss Parliament and signed on 23 September 2009, the DTA still has not been ratified by the United States. Switzerland on the other hand has ratified it and even unilaterally modified its interpretation thereof to include group requests (as in the 1996 DTA). But at present, The IRS and DOJ have their eyes set on at least 11 other Swiss banks, among which Credit Suisse, which are suspected of helping US taxpayers avoiding US taxes.

As for the impact of the FATF Recommendations, Jan said that this include, among others, the obligation for each Member State to have in its internal law at least one tax offence that is a predicate to money laundering, both for direct and indirect taxes. Hence, this will force Switzerland to create a new tax crime, since currently only a qualified tax fraud in the field of indirect taxes is punishable by more than 3 years of imprisonment, which makes it a predicate offence to money laundering. In a recent announcement on 22 Feb 2012, the Swiss Federal Council reported that it will propose concrete strategies for a tax-compliant Swiss financial centre by Sep 2012. In rounding of his presentation, Jan also pointed to similar developments experienced by Singapore, e.g. Singapore also signed around 30 DTAs with an EOI provision under the OECD standard, but on a positive note, highlighted the differences to the TIEA (unlike Switzerland).

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