Business secretary, Vince Cable has announced government plans to unmask secretive company owners with a public register of company owners.
The new proposals would force UK companies to list their true owners in a bid to combat tax evasion and money laundering. Mr Cable believes the list could also be used by tax authorities to clamp down on the “darker side of capitalism”.
“For consumers, investors and the wider public to really trust a company they need to know who is really in charge,” he said.
“This is why I’m making sure we take tough action tackling the darker side of capitalism and the smoke and mirrors which have existed for too long.
“No longer will UK companies be able to use complex structures and trails of paperwork to hide information and keep the public in the dark.”
Under the new rules, which still require parliamentary approval, UK-registered firms would be forced to give details of anyone with an interest in more than 25 per cent of its shares or voting rights. Companies House, who would hold these details, will then update them onto a public register every 12 months.
Campaigners have labelled the public register an “historic step” in the fight against corruption in the UK.
David McNair, of Save the Children, said of the announcement: “This is an historic step in the fight against corruption and tax evasion.
“For too long, shell companies have hidden vast profits behind bogus owners, while tax dodging has cheated the world’s poorest countries out of billions of pounds every year.”
There are further plans afoot to abolish ‘bearer shares’, which can currently be transferred untraceably, without the need to register ownership.
The Government is also keen to limit the use of corporate directors – where companies, rather than people, are directors of other companies.
Image: The CBI
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