STEP's Public Policy Committee leads the development of public policy initiatives across the Society. We participate in a number of stakeholder groups and committees, including: Financial Action Task Force; OECD Business and Industry Advisory Committee; various EU Expert Groups; UK Charity Tax Forum; and the UK High Net Worth Unit External Stakeholder Forum. STEP also engages regularly with policymakers and other stakeholders on an ad hoc basis when important issues related to our members’ work advising families on inheritance and related issues are being considered.
STEP supports the principle of effective measures to prevent money laundering.
STEP has been working to improve global standards in the application of mental capacity law, to strengthen safeguards and mitigate financial abuse
STEP has publishes several resources regarding the succession planning of digital assets and digital currencies.
We have clearly-articulated positions on issues of importance to families: from improving standards in will writing to the development of fair, transparent and consistent tax rules to give families the confidence to make long-term plans. We have outlined our position on key issues below.
- Mental Capacity
- Being able to express your wishes and make decisions is a fundamental human right. We believe in supporting the needs of practitioners to better understand how clients may have diminished capacity, as a first step to assisting them in avoiding making partially or ill-informed decisions and becoming victims of abuse.
- The legal frameworks that enable capacity planning are not in place in every jurisdiction. Where they are in place, there is room for improvement. This lack of consistency from one country to another presents significant barriers to protecting and upholding the rights and interests of vulnerable clients, particularly in an age where many people have property and family in different countries. We are calling on all jurisdictions globally to implement robust legal frameworks for safeguarding the financial affairs of incapable clients through powers of representation.
- We support legislation that improves cross-border recognition of powers of representation. In line with such initiatives as the Hague Convention on the International Protection of Adults, we believe such frameworks should be consistent to encourage cross-border recognition. We are supporting in this by providing a standard template for such legislation: the STEP Global Representative Power.
- We believe that mental capacity assessments are a vital safeguard against vulnerable person abuse and we support strengthening relevant legislation to introduce additional capacity tests. We will work to raise awareness about existing risks and inadequacies among all stakeholders to ensure these are fully understood and addressed in legislation and practice globally.
- We believe in enhancing the growing need for public awareness and education of mental capacity issues and associated planning to better support vulnerable people and their families and prevent against occurrences of predatory marriage and other forms of vulnerable person financial abuse.
- We will continue to educate and work with all stakeholders on issues related to mental capacity and associated planning. We can play a vital role in this, by working with financial institutions and utility companies on policy initiatives, and to identify and resolve their challenges. We also support practitioners and allied professionals to provide education and guidance to build their knowledge in this area.
- Digital Assets
- Accessing digital assets after a loved one’s death has become a widespread and global challenge for practitioners and their clients. We believe that families need better support in accessing ill or deceased loved ones’ digital assets to prevent distress and frustration.
- We urge practitioners and their clients to carefully consider all types of digital assets (sentimental and financial) during the estate planning and administration process.
- We believe best practice for digital assets estate planning should include the use of pre-planning legacy tools provided by social media and cloud service providers. STEP continues to work with service providers globally in order to produce industry solutions and best practices that will help families plan for their futures with certainty and clarity. We also encourage the use of clauses in a will, power of attorney or trust agreement that state who should access an individual’s digital assets upon death or incapacitation.
- We are calling on governments to focus on law reform to enable effective estate planning in relation to digital assets. Legal systems need to provide clear rules around property rights and rights of access by personal representatives. Any legislative solution must balance access to these assets with the need to safeguard the privacy rights of the deceased.
- We urge governments and regulators to consider the needs of vulnerable and elderly individuals in the implementation of central bank digital currencies (CBDC). Importantly, all individuals should be provided with the necessary tools and identification requirements needed to participate in a CBDC landscape (i.e. digital wallets).
- We deplore and strongly oppose any form of corruption and the significant harm it causes society
- We play a vital role in training, educating and supporting our members to uphold high levels of integrity and ethical standards.
- We stand united in the fight against corruption in all its forms and are committed to sharing knowledge, skills and intelligence with our counterparts and agencies fighting financial corruption. ;
- STEP, alongside a number of other professional bodies, signed an anti-corruption statement in May 2016 – the full statement is available here (PDF 212KB)
- Financial crime
- STEP fully supports efforts of governments and international bodies in tackling financial crime. We regularly highlight risk factors to policymakers that may impact the effectiveness of their policies and help to find solutions.
- We want gaps in the financial system that can be exploited by criminals to be closed. This can be achieved by simpler tax systems, more cross-border collaboration to reduce complexity, and ensuring all jurisdictions are held to the same standards.
- We believe all jurisdictions should be held to the same standards in order to effectively tackle financial crime. International financial regulation must proceed on the basis of non-discrimination and a level playing field.
- Money laundering
- We support the principle of effective measures to combat money laundering and have worked constructively with national governments, international entities such as the EU and other third parties to develop practical and effective mechanisms to combat money laundering.
- We believe that the enforcement of rigorous standards on trust and company service providers has a key role to play in combatting money laundering. However all enforcement must be practical and proportionate and should avoid becoming too burdensome for the supervisor.
- It is important that measures to combat money laundering respect families’ basic rights to legitimate confidentiality in their financial and personal affairs and ensure that sensitive financial information is not vulnerable to abuse.
- We have concerns regarding publicly accessible registers of beneficial owners of family trusts: many such trusts are created to protect the interests of vulnerable family members who will be at high risk of abuse of information if their financial status is widely available to the public. Any information should only be accessed if it is deemed as ‘necessary’ by the relevant authority.
- We advocate that rigorous safeguards and robust mechanisms must be in place where information is accessible to anyone other than the competent authority.
- We condemn tax evasion and all other forms of criminal activity. We equally condemn those who seek to facilitate tax evasion and criminal activity.
- We support the right of individuals and other taxable entities to arrange their financial affairs to minimise their tax liability within the law.
- We advocate clear and coordinated tax laws: ‘abusive’ efforts to minimise or negate taxes often exploit ambiguities in tax systems.
- Too often, for political expediency, piecemeal reforms are implemented that lead to gaps in the system that enable them to be exploited. Equally, anti-abuse legislation is often introduced reactively to an existing short-term political issue that fails to tackle the real problems. These problems can be avoided by governments engaging in effective and open consultation with all affected parties before legislating, and implementing tax reform in a coordinated and structured manner.
- It is important to ensure that international initiatives to improve tax transparency and combat tax evasion are proportionate and have strong legal guarantees that the information exchanged will be secure and used legitimately by the relevant authority.
- STEP members who advise on UK tax matters must adhere to guidance on Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation as a condition of membership.
- We believe everyone should be encouraged to make a will so that their money, property and possessions will pass on as they would wish after their death and to avoid any unforeseen complications for family members.
- Consumers should have confidence that will writers are appropriately trained and professionally competent. In the absence of regulation in this area in many jurisdictions, STEP promotes high professional standards and integrity to our members through our codes of conduct.