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Five EU Countries Agree To Share Beneficial Ownership Data

Friday, April 15, 2016

France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK have agreed to exchange data held on beneficial ownership registers and registers of trusts.

This pilot project, initiated by the UK, will explore the best way for countries to share this information, with a view to developing a global common standard and interlinking national registers. The five countries have suggested that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, together with the Financial Action Task Force, develop the recommended standard.

The UK Government said the global exchange of beneficial ownership information would compound the effectiveness of the new Common Reporting Standard (CRS). More than 90 countries are expected to automatically exchange taxpayer financial account information under the CRS, beginning in 2017. The UK's register of company beneficial ownership will go live in June 2016.

UK Chancellor George Osborne said: "Britain will work with our major European partners to find out who really owns the secretive shell companies and trusts that have been used as conduits for evading tax, laundering money, and benefiting from corruption."

He added: "No single country can tackle international tax evasion alone – and Britain should never fool itself into thinking it can do this by itself."

Ministers from each country have written to their counterparts in the G20 to call for greater cooperation on the exchange of beneficial ownership information. They stressed that any global initiative "should cover the robust identification of beneficial ownership, the range of entities and arrangements which should be covered by such exchange, timing of exchange, and wider exchange procedures."

"This new initiative will take a significant step forward in improving the transparency of beneficial ownership and in removing the veil of secrecy under which criminals operate," the letter argued. It added that the signatories are "willing to ensure the effective implementation of the exchange of information standards and to deal with non-cooperative jurisdictions on the basis of an international list and through defensive measures."