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British Columbia issues new beneficial ownership rules for businesses

Tuesday, 29 October, 2019

British Columbia’s (BC’s) provincial government is taking a further step in its fight against hidden ownership, money laundering and tax evasion: from May 1, 2020, private businesses will be required to keep records of their beneficial owners.

In order to crack down on private businesses being used for illegal activity, the BC government is amending the Business Corporations Act, requiring private businesses in the province to “keep and maintain transparency records of beneficial owners.”

The information required, which will cover individuals who have direct or indirect control of a company or its shares, includes:

  • full legal name;
  • date of birth;
  • citizenship; and
  • last known address.

The information will then, the government says, be accessible to Ministry of Finance compliance and auditing officers, as well as law enforcement officials. If necessary, it will also be shared with the Canada Revenue Agency.

The move comes after an expert panel’s report, Combatting Money Laundering in BC Real Estate, suggested that a total of CAD7.4 billion was laundered in BC during 2018. The panel called beneficial ownership disclosure the “single most important measure that can be taken to combat money laundering.”

In August 2019, the province lowered the threshold at which shareholders of a property-owning corporation must be disclosed to its public registry of beneficial and indirect land owners to 10 per cent.

In a statement on October 25, Minister of Finance Carole James said: “Requiring businesses to maintain transparency registries means that criminals cannot hide what they own and that people are paying their fair share.”

Sources