House of Commons Library

Registers of beneficial ownership

Published Thursday, May 10, 2018

This briefing looks at the development of beneficial ownership registers in the UK and around the world.

Jump to full report >>

Beneficial ownership refers to the person(s) who ultimately own(s) or control(s) an asset (for example, a property or a company) and benefit(s) from it. The concept of beneficial ownership exists because the direct legal owner of an asset is not necessarily the person ultimately controlling and benefitting from the asset. For example, the direct legal owner of a residential property may be an anonymous company registered overseas.

Registers of beneficial ownership play a key role in the ongoing debate about transparency of ownership.

The UK has registers of beneficial ownership for three different types of assets: companies, properties and land, and trusts. Information on the beneficial ownership of companies is publicly available. For properties owned by overseas companies and legal entities, the Government plans to launch a public beneficial ownership register in 2021. The register for trusts is not public.

Around the world, a large number of countries has created or has plans to create registers. Among British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, public registers are the exception at the moment, but will become the norm for companies by the end of 2020. In the EU, the making public of beneficial ownership information is becoming mandatory soon.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8259

Author: Federico Mor

Topics: Companies, Privacy, Regulation

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Commons Briefing papers

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.