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Corporate transparency

In July 2013, the Department for Business Innovations and Skills (BIS) issued a major discussion paper 'Transparency and Trust: Enhancing the Transparency of UK Company Ownership and Increasing Trust in UK Business'.

Among other things, this proposes to require all companies registered in the UK to obtain and hold information of who owns and controls them; to implement a central registry of company beneficial ownership information; to ban the use of bearer shares and corporate directors; and to increase transparency over the use of nominee directors.

A copy of the discussion paper is available here ICAEW is preparing a response, which has to be submitted by 16th September.

BIS are also carrying out research to assess the burdens that this would impose on companies. They have asked us to circulate access to a survey which is being used by them for this purpose to our members. We would like this to be completed by as many companies as possible. This is to avoid BIS miscalculating the burdens involved by receiving responses biased towards companies find the survey easy to complete because they have simple ownership structures and low costs or alternatively by those who may find these proposals difficult or onerous to implement.

The survey itself is not very flexible, cannot be saved half completed or returned to once completed. For this reason, we have obtained a copy of the survey questions for use for the purposes of discussion with your company management or clients. Most of the survey enquires about the costs to companies in terms of financial costs, administration and management time.

If companies anticipate further disadvantages such as through loss of investment from people or families with very high but legitimate requirements for privacy, these should be given in answer to question 20.

BIS has requested that the survey should only be completed by corporate entities. If practising firms would like to respond on behalf of all or a number of their clients, they are requested to do so by responding to the discussion paper, rather than through the survey.