TRS exemption for pension trusts with a separate trust of land

I am having some difficulty in finding out if a trust of land (which would not otherwise be exempt from registration on the TRS), does not need to be registered as it is held for the benefit of a pension trust (which itself is exempt from registration).

We are acting for the legal owners of some land in relation to a commercial property matter. The legal owners hold the land for the benefit of a pension trust, and the trust deed says the employees etc are the beneficiaries. My thoughts are that the legal and beneficial owners are different so, at first sight, the trust of land needs registering.

We have already established that the pension trust itself is exempt from registration on the TRS, but my concern is whether or not the trust of land is registrable as a non-exempt trust before our commercial property team can complete their matter. I can’t see anything in HMRC’s manual confirming that, just because the pension trust is exempt, the trust of land for any property its trustees own is also exempt.

I am cautious about this as our client manages hundreds of other properties held in pension trusts so the correct answer will have a massive impact on them either way.

Has anyone come across this issue before?

I have looked at this in the past and reluctantly concluded that the exemption probably doesn’t apply. There’s no certainty but it seems likely that the “pension” category is only meant to apply to the pension trust itself, not underlying nominee arrangements. You could still make a reasonable argument for the opposing view so it depends on your clients’ risk appetite.

(fortunately in my case it became a non-issue for other reasons).

You can write to HMRC with TRS queries and get an answer in 1-3 months so it may be worthwhile if there is a lot at stake.

Thank you Andrew, that’s really helpful.