The Government has announced the result of its recent Corporate Transparency and Register consultation. Amongst the proposals announced are: compulsory identity verification for all company directors and people with significant control; compulsory identity verification for all individuals filing information with Companies House (i.e. presenters) – whether individuals connected with the corporate body in respect of which a filing is made or third party agents; and an obligation on entities subject to UK AML Regulations (eg, lawyers, accountants and FCA authorised businesses) to report discrepancies between the public register generally and the information they hold on their customers. It is anticipated that, in time, only entities subject to the AML regulations will be permitted to make filings on behalf of any third party.
Although greater transparency in relation to the information held at Companies House is welcome, the Government needs to ensure that the regulatory burden does not distract from the UK being an easy and flexible place to do business. It is important that amongst the eye-catching headlines regarding fraud and money-laundering the Government does not loose sight of changes that would make a real difference in practice. Reforms that implement greater ease of access, improved accuracy, and more up to date information being available at Companies House (in particular with regard to shareholders) would be of great benefit to businesses. However, any changes that merely push the regulatory burden onto businesses and their regulated advisers are likely to do the exact opposite.
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