Berlin Conference 2022

8–10 June

Meeting Summary
  • 1. Swiss Trusts: the changing landscapeAndrew McCallum
    • Switzerland has had since 2020 a trustee licencing law. It only concerns commercial trustees. Licences require approval of FINMA. Financial adequacy and irreproachable business conduct are required. Private and dedicated trust companies are permitted.

      Today, Switzerland has no substantive trust law, but a draft trust law is under consideration, along with a much-criticised draft tax law. Parliamentary approval is still needed, and a public referendum may be held. Trusts governed by other laws will continue to be permitted in any event. It is proposed that taxes will be levied on settling, maintaining and distribution to beneficiaries. Various options are being considered. It may be that the whole tax project may be abandoned and the present tax practice retained.

  • 2. A Fresh Look at LiechtensteinJohanna Niegel
    • The PCC Act was passed in 2015. A PCC has a core and separate segments – ‘cells’. It is available for purposes of a non-trading nature. A PCC may be a new entity or an adaption of an existing body. The core assets are used for administration of the PCC and the segment assets for the business of the cells. Segmentation has no effect on KYC requirements. The appointment of an auditor is compulsory.

      The articles of the PCC must provide for segments. Regulations must be reported to the Office of Justice but are not made public. A PCC must make it clear to a contracting party that it is a segmented entity and which segment is liable for liabilities. Claims of creditors of a cell are limited to the segment assets. Taxation is levied on the PCC as a whole.

      Shares can be issued with respect to a specific segment. The segment shareholders are shareholders of the PCC, as the segments do not have legal personality.

  • 3. The Hague Convention: thirty years onPaolo Panico
    • FW Maitland thought the trust the ‘distinctive achievement’ of English law. The Convention enables signatory countries, including civil law countries, to recognise ‘trusts’ – a term widely defined. The governing law may be chosen by the settlor. The Convention does not prevent forced heirship or affect tax issues. It allows purpose trusts. It can provide for appointment of new trustees.

      The Convention has influenced the domestic law in Malta, Cyprus, the EU and decisions in cases in the ECJ, EFTA and the UK.

  • 4. Targeting the Oligarchs: sanctions, freezes, seizuresAlan Granwell
    • The US currently has a low level of transparency, facilitating the hiding of assets in shell companies. The new Federal legislation will require disclosure of beneficial ownership of individuals by corporations, domestic and foreign, as well as those that file and/or direct or control the filing of a registration document by another person. Banks, insurance companies and large organisations are not affected. There is a focus on trusts. Reports will need to be prompt and detailed. Some States are considering similar measures.

      Many governments are taking steps to ascertain Russian ownership of assets. The US, UK and EU have used sanctions and travel bans to this end, with some success, and there are initiatives in train to increase the information available.

  • 5. Crypto Assets: new developments: DeFi, NFTs, taxationNiklas Schmidt
    • Bitcoin is a digital asset which can be sent directly from user to user. It is recorded in a decentralised database. Ethereum can be transferred subject to conditions. An Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is a way of raising money from the public directly.

      The Decentralised Autonomous Organisation (‘DAO’) is a computer version of a limited company: investors can contribute to the capital and become entitled to a percentage of voting rights and profit. Decentralised Finance (‘DeFi’) is a Ethereum version of a bank or insurance company, open to the public without conditions. There are risks of bugs and fraud – Compound and Aave are examples. DeFi investment is essentially risky.

      The CryptoKitties are an early NFT game, each token representing a cat with specific characteristics. NFTs are being used for art and culture, collectables, in-game assets, and assets in the metaverse.

  • 6. Innovation: how to generate new ideas in the tax industryDennis Sherwood
    • An innovation comes from an idea and evaluation and development and implementation. Creativity requires content, process, structure, strategy, relationships, and the perception of the individual. There are six steps in innovation – (1) select focus of attention, (2) define what you know, (3) share, (4) choose one feature and ask ‘How might this be different’, (5) let it be, (6) repeat steps 4 and 5.

  • 7. Individual Residence and Tax Planning: a fresh look at GreecePetros Fatouros
    • The present government includes left-wing and right-wing members and non-politicians. The country has a high level or internet activity. The basic tax rate is 22%; the business tax is 5%. New residents may be taxed at half the general rate for seven years. An investor of 500,000 Euros will enjoy a reduced rate of tax for fifteen years. Pensioners can enjoy lower taxes. The ‘Golden Visa’ provides eligibility for citizenship for investors after seven years.

      Greece does not have a trust law; foreign trusts not carrying on business in Greece are not taxed; distributions are taxed as gifts – at 10%. Inheritance tax may be pre-paid before the death. In general, Greece is lowering taxes to encourage inward investment and new residents.

  • 8. The Shareholders’ Agreement: a device for family governanceNicholas Jacob
    • Shareholders’ agreements can keep control of the family company from time to time, helping to prevent and resolve disputes. They provide family members with a sense of shared purpose. They can help to prevent and resolve disputes.

      A Singapore family company in the furniture business with a patriarch wishing to provide a workable future for the future offered a case study, with a shareholders’ agreement regulatory share transfers on death or incapacity and many other features. The agreement may also articulate the family purpose and provide a meaningful structure for family members and their involvement in the business.

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