Companies may have to disclose details of beneficial ownership

On 18 June, the government published an action plan to prevent the misuse of companies and legal arrangements. The action plan was published as part of the government’s membership of the G8, which has endorsed core principles that are fundamental to the transparency of ownership and the control of companies. The G8 principles are consistent with the standards of the Financial Action Task Force. The G8 has stated that it is committed to publishing national action plans that set out the concrete action each member will take.

The UK’s action plan lists nine actions that are aimed at combating a perceived lack of clarity about who really owns, controls and benefits from companies, the intention being to make it harder to launder money, evade and avoid tax, finance terrorism, bribe officials, hide stolen assets and evade financial sanctions. While all nine action points are of interest, two will be of particular note for companies.

These are (i) ensuring the Companies Act 2006 and UK Money Laundering Regulations oblige companies to know who owns and controls them, by requiring that companies obtain and hold adequate, accurate and current information on their beneficial ownership, and (ii) amending the Companies Act 2006 to require that this information is accurate and readily available to the authorities through a central registry of information maintained by Companies House, and consulting on whether such information should be publicly accessible…

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