Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

New UK property register to help curb money laundering

Out-Law News | 22 Jan 2018 | 4:51 pm | 1 min. read

Businesses based outside of the UK will have to disclose details about their ultimate owners when buying property in the country, under plans to be taken forward by the UK government.

A "public register" of owners and buyers of UK property will be aimed at curbing money laundering by "criminal gangs", the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said.

"[The register] will help to reduce opportunities for criminals to use shell companies to buy properties in London and elsewhere to launder their illicit proceeds by making it easier for law enforcement agencies to track criminal funds and take action," BEIS said.

The department said that more than £180 million worth of property in the UK has been "brought under criminal investigation as the suspected proceeds of corruption" since 2004.

BEIS said that draft legislation providing for the new register will be tabled this summer with the view to the "world-first" register going live in 2021.

Business secretary Greg Clark said the government is "committed to protecting the integrity and reputation of [the UK's] property market to ensure the UK is seen as an attractive business environment".

"This world-first register will build on our reputation for corporate transparency as well as helping to create a hostile environment for economic crimes like money laundering," Clark said.

Since 6 April 2016, most UK companies have been required to formally identify and keep a register of the individuals who are ‘persons with significant control’ (PSC) over them and to include this information in an annual return. The information on PSCs is available for public inspection.

Since 26 June 2017, trustees of UK trusts and of non-UK trusts with UK tax liabilities have been obliged to maintain accurate and up-to-date records of all the beneficial owners of the trust. They are also required to report beneficial ownership information annually to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to be kept on a UK register of trusts. The register is currently only accessible by tax and law enforcement authorities.