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UK's company beneficial ownership register to open in April 2016

Thursday, 15 January, 2015

The UK government has announced the launch timetable for the public register listing the 'persons with significant control' (PSC) of all companies.

Companies will be required to keep a register of people with significant control from January 2016. They will have to file information about so-called PSCs at Companies House by April 2016, according to a ministerial statement issued by Jo Swinson of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Swinson admitted that the implications for companies are significant, and promised to 'think carefully about the secondary legislation, systems changes, guidance and communication requirements we will need to give effect to them'.

BIS published a consultation paper on its plans last October, acknowledging that there are disagreements about how a person's control over a company should be recorded on the register. It will now create a working group, including business representative bodies and civil society groups, to produce guidance to accompany the legislation.

A separate expert group will be convened to draft the statutory guidance required to set out what is meant by 'significant influence or control' in the context of the PSC register. This will take the form of a set of conditions for 'significant control', and PSCs named on the register will have to state which one or more of the conditions they meet.

BIS also accepts that people at serious risk of harm should be able to have their information protected from public disclosure on the PSC register. However, Swinney said she was 'minded' to limit the class of PSCs able to apply for protection to those who are at serious risk of violence or intimidation as a result of a company's activities. It is not expected to cover purely economic risks.

Applications for anonymity will be accepted from a PSC's professional advisers, and they will also be able to apply in advance of their becoming a PSC so that protection will apply from day one.