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Private client community divided by public disclosure plans

by Eleanor Lawrie on Jun 11, 2014 at 07:00

He noted that while this is part of a global effort to reduce tax evasion, the definition of a trust varies greatly between countries. In the UK they are easy to form, and are frequently used for legitimate purposes, for example, by a couple wanting to set up a university fund for their children. This legislation could potentially mean that in such a scenario, their names and addresses would be placed in the public domain.

Ronnie Ludwig, a partner at accountancy firm Saffery Champness specialising in tax planning, welcomed the reform. He said it was ‘long overdue’.

However, he warned it would not work unless it was a globally coordinated effort so tax avoiders could not simply move their assets between complex offshore structures.

‘I think if an enforceable set of rules and procedures are put in to place, that has got to be better than what we have at the moment. Companies House just tells you who the beneficiary is in the Bahamas and then you are going to get nowhere,’ he said.

Ludwig said individuals who were paying the correct amount of tax had nothing to worry about.

‘If you are a private client, you do not have anything to do, providing you have told your accountant or adviser about your structure,’ he added.

Meanwhile Richard Corrigan, deputy chief executive of Jersey Finance, supports access to more information up to a point. 'Regarding public registers of beneficial ownership, we strongly believe in law enforcement agencies and tax agencies having access to information that is relevant to how they discharge their responsibilities on a domestic basis: however I see no reason why that information should be made available to the general public.'  


June 2013: Chancellor George Osborne pledges at the G8 summit to set up a UK register of beneficial ownership. He says in future, companies should know who owns and controls them, and their beneficial ownership and basic information should be adequate, accurate and current.

July 2013: Business secretary Vince Cable launches the Transparency and Trust paper to tackle opaque company ownership structures and improve the accountability of company directors.

October 2013: David Cameron commits to making the register publicly available at the Open Government Partnership Summit.

April 2014: Cameron writes to the overseas territories, asking them to follow the mainland UK example and establish a publicly available register showing the beneficiaries of trusts and companies domiciled in their region.

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