UK presses for beneficial ownership registries
The leaders met UK Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street at the weekend, where he presented them with the demand ‒ softened by a promise that the UK and the G8 countries will do the same. The G8 countries are meeting this week, and are expected to produce an agreement on a new standard for company beneficial ownership registries. Whether trusts are to be included is not yet clear.
The UK's position is that the national registries should at least be made available to law enforcement and tax authorities, if not the general public. It is planning to issue a consultation paper during the summer concerning amendments to its own national legislation.
Cameron's statement after the Saturday summit also announced that all UK dependencies had committed to joining the OECD's multilateral convention on mutual administrative assistance on tax matters. Not all of them have independently confirmed this, though some, including Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man had already offered to sign the convention, as has Gibraltar and the Cayman Islands.
The public perception of the meeting's outcome is probably as important to Cameron as its long-term effect. ‘It is important that we are getting our house in order,’ he said in a statement after the talks. ‘Britain’s voice in the G8 ... for proper taxes, proper companies and proper laws will be stronger.’
However, proposals for beneficial ownership registries are not universally supported. At the moment, several leading countries, including the US, do not collect comprehensive corporate ownership information. Some US states, notably Delaware, do not even track shareholders of records. Canada also has reservations.
Richard Hay TEP, of international tax law firm Stikeman Elliot, said the plans for national registries risked scoring an own goal for the UK and its overseas financial centres.
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