There have been further developments in the area of transparency concerning beneficial ownership registers.
The increasing drive towards transparency of tax and beneficial ownership information continued this week. Further developments were announced regarding previously announced initiatives relating to the automatic exchange of beneficial ownership information for companies and trusts, adding over 20 new participating jurisdictions.
Following the initiative announced on 14 April 2016 to pilot automatic exchange of beneficial ownership information in relation to companies and trusts between the ‘Big 5’ European partners (UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain), this has now been extended to more than 20 jurisdictions.
The ‘Big 5’ have been joined this week by Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Montserrat, Anguilla, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, Latvia, Croatia, Belgium, Ireland, Slovenia , Denmark, Malta, Lithuania, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Portugal, Estonia, Greece and Czech Republic.
A joint statement was released in which each jurisdiction committed to “establishing as soon as possible registers or other mechanisms requiring that beneficial owners of companies, trusts, foundations, shell companies and other relevant entities and arrangements are identified” and to sharing that information automatically with other participating jurisdictions.
The statement also called for the rapid establishment of a new single global standard for such exchange and for the interlinking of beneficial ownership registers.
George Osborne also commented that “the UK will continue to push for an internationally agreed blacklist for those that refuse to do the right thing”.
As previously noted, much of the information that will be shared is likely to already be within the scope of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), but the new initiative is expected to allow for real time sharing of information between participating jurisdictions, rather than having to wait for the annual reporting cycles under CRS, which will begin in September 2017.