House of Commons Library

Registers of beneficial ownership

Published Friday, August 24, 2018

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

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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, many countries have created or have plans to create registers. All British Overseas Territories will introduce public registers for companies by the end of 2020. Crown Dependencies have committed to follow suit when public registers become the global norm. In the EU, member states have until January 2020 to make public the beneficial ownership of legal entities such as companies.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8259

Author: Federico Mor

Topics: Companies, Privacy, Regulation

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