Owning a British company through a trust and passing the control to trustee: the UK government's quest for transparency in limited company ownership, which will soon be enshrined in law in some form or another, has caused a huge debate amongst companies formation agents about the best way to maintain client anonymity and protect income from excessive taxation. One method that comes up time and again is owning a company through a trust.
Trusts are not new; they have been used for many years to provide for children and to avoid as much inheritance tax as possible. However, in recent years they have become more popular as a means of maintaining privacy, and as a way for businesses to continue to run and provide for a HNWI's family if the worst should happen.
For instance, simply placing the business in the hands of a trust means it is protected if an individual’s personal liabilities exceed their assets if they pass away. It is a legal level of separation from your personal and business affairs that means the business will carry on regardless of your personal affairs. If you as an owner become ill, incapacitated or simply retire, you can have in place instructions to pass control of the company to the trustees and your private company will continue to earn money for yourself and your family.
Placing a trust in charge of the company right at the start is always the best solution, because then there is no valuation of the company to consider for tax reasons before it is placed into trust. Most companies, at the start, are essentially worthless. So taking the right steps at the beginning will save you a bill later on.
Of course, it's never too late to put a trust in charge of your company limited by shares and to start to take advantage of the tax breaks and benefits that structure brings. There may be financial penalties to pay, but they will be amortised by the savings in the years ahead.