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UK register of beneficial ownership for overseas entities

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The government has set out in its consultation response how it intends to implement by early 2021 the public register of beneficial ownership for foreign companies owning property in the UK, or participating in UK government procurement.

In January, the government confirmed its intention to introduce a draft Bill before the summer recess in 2018 to establish a public register of beneficial ownership for foreign companies owning property in the UK or participating in UK government procurement. Formal introduction of the Bill is planned for summer 2019, with the register expected to become operational by early 2021.

BEIS consulted during April and May 2017 on proposals for design of the register. This followed a discussion paper in March 2016 and an announcement at the international anti-corruption summit in May of that year. The response document now sets out how the government plans to implement the register. The main elements may be summarised as follows:

  • all legal forms which can hold properties will be within the scope of the new register, except for trusts, which are covered by HMRC’s new trust registration service;
  • all leases of registrable duration will be within scope;
  • the definition of beneficial owner for the new register will be aligned to the definition of people with significant control (PSC) in the PSC regime (with appropriate adaptations for overseas entities) and will require the same information as the PSC regime;
  • overseas entities will be given more than one year in which to comply, with the precise length of time to be confirmed;
  • the compliance regime, including the requirement to keep information up to date, will be backed up by criminal offences;
  • the government’s preferred frequency for updates to the register, likely to be less than two years, will be set out in the draft legislation;
  • overseas entities without a valid registration number, who buy property after the law comes into force, will assume beneficial interest but not legal title;
  • for government procurement, only preferred suppliers will be required to provide beneficial ownership information as a condition of being awarded the contract; and
  • entities unable to give information about their beneficial owners will be asked to provide information about their managing officers.


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