The UK Register of Overseas Entities – the facts
Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill 2022 - Factsheet: The Register of Overseas Entities (Published 28 February 2022)
What is the government doing and why?
- The government is introducing a 'Register of Overseas Entities' to crack down on foreign criminals using UK property to launder money.
- The new register will require anonymous foreign owners of UK property to reveal their real identities to ensure criminals cannot hide behind secretive chains of shell companies, setting a global standard for transparency.
- This measure forms part of the government's strategy to combat economic crime while ensuring legitimate businesses continue to see the UK as a great place to invest.
How is the government going to do it?
The 'Register of Overseas Entities' will:
- Provide more information for law enforcement to help them to track down those using UK property as a money-laundering vehicle
- Require anonymous foreign owners of UK property to reveal their real identity to ensure criminals can't hide behind secretive chains of shell companies
- Level the playing field with property owned by UK companies, who already need to disclose their beneficial owners to Companies House
- Impose sanctions for non-compliance, including restrictions on registering or disposing of the title of the land
- Apply retrospectively to property bought up to 20 years ago in England and Wales and since December 2014 in Scotland
- Breaches of obligations can result in criminal sanctions, including daily fines of up to £500 or prison sentences of up to five years for the most serious breaches.
Who will this apply to?
The measures will apply to foreign owners of UK property. They will apply to:
- Any company or similar legal entity that is governed by the law of a country or territory outside the UK (overseas entity)
- Individuals who have significant influence or control over the entity, e.g. they hold 25% or more of the shares or voting rights (beneficial owners)
What will an overseas entity have to do who owns or wishes to own land in the UK?
- An overseas entity will be required to identify its beneficial owner(s) and to register them with Companies House. Information supplied to the register will be required to be verified.
- Once registered, an overseas entity ID number will be provided. The entity will be required to update its information annually until it successfully applies to be removed from the live Register of Overseas Entities.
- And To register title to land, an overseas entity will have to demonstrate it is registered and must comply with the duty to update information.
When will this come into effect?
- The expectation is that the Register of Overseas Entities will have an immediate dissuasive effect on those who intend to buy UK property with illicit funds.
- Companies House has already received £20 million this financial year and a further £63 million announced at the Spending Review to transform operations, including delivering this new register.
- Implementation will proceed at pace following Royal Assent of the Bill.
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