There has been a great deal of debate about the “secret” company registers within crown dependencies. Companies and high-net-worth individuals who hold their funds in crown dependencies like Guernsey, the Isle of Mann, and Jersey want the records to remain confidential. The UK and tax transparency advocates, however, feel the records should become public.
Following significant pressure from MPs, there is finally a timeline in place. This timeline outlines when these secret company registers will become public.
The Current Registers
Currently, the beneficial ownership registers are only accessible to the local authorities of each crown dependency. Foreign governments can request the information. These registers include companies’ ultimate ownership, meaning it is information that other authorities want.
This contrasts sharply with the UK’s registers. In the UK, public records exist for anyone owning over a quarter of any registered company.
The new plan will make the registers available to the general public, the European Union, and the public. These changes will take place by 2023 at the latest.
The timeline features specific goals in the coming years until then. By 2021, the dependencies will merge their registers with the equivalents in the EU. By 2022, businesses will be able to access the registers with the goal of allowing them to complete “due diligence.” Finally, by 2023, the governments of the three crown dependencies in question will bring legislation to parliament with the goal of making the registers available publically.
What the Involved Parties Say
Gavin St Pier, the Chief Minister of Guernsey, said that this plan will bring the islands closer to the regional standards for financial transparency. He does not anticipate that businesses will feel discouraged to operate there.
The Guernsey International Business Association’s president, Tony Mancini, disagrees and feels that this change may hurt the island’s economy. He indicated that Guernsey’s financial model relies on confidentiality and this move would “unilaterally” discard it. He also indicated that the “secret” company registers in Guernsey are better than those in the UK due to the fact that trusted companies verify the information.
Grant Thornton’s Jersey branch director, John Shenton, is also against the move. He argued that it puts individuals’ information at risk unnecessarily, including providing the potential for “tabloid sensationalism.”
Dame Margaret is welcoming of the plan and future changes, but she still expressed doubts about the transparency of the final register.
All parties can agree that more details must be worked out before anyone can begin to predict how the changes to the register will impact the crown dependencies.
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