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BEIS call for evidence on a register of beneficial owners of overseas companies - Law Society response

22 May 2017

In April the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a call for evidence seeking views on the government's proposals for a register showing who owns and controls overseas legal entities that also own UK property or participate in UK government procurement.

The call for evidence was in response to the government's concerns about the potential for illegal activity to take place through overseas companies investing in the UK's property sector.

The government aims to create a register that:

  • contains useful information
  • is publicly and easily accessible
  •  protects the information of those at risk and
  • does not create disproportionate burdens or put off legitimate investors.

The government proposes that the new register will be held by Companies House, the registrar of companies in the UK.

The proposals are likely to impact both commercial and residential properties across the UK. Overseas entities will need to comply with the new Companies House registration requirements in order to buy and sell property in the UK..

In our response we acknowledged the importance of improving transparency and supported some of the government’s proposals (for example, the proposed protection for lenders enforcing security over UK property).

We agreed that all overseas legal forms that can hold properties should be in the scope of the new register's requirements, and we stated that the proposed regime must be workable, proportionate, legally certain and readily understandable to those without legal qualifications and a deep experience of international legal structures.

We stated that clarity surrounding the new regime would be very important, especially in light of the government's message that ‘Britain is open for business’.

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