New Company Disclosure Requirements On the Way

The trend towards full disclosure and openness continues unabated in business, and new regulations are being mooted which will increase the amount of disclosure required of UK-registered companies regarding their principals.

Currently, even the smallest company must disclose who its officers and the beneficial owners of its shares are, and company officers' records show all the companies they are currently involved with or have been in the past, including those that have ceased to exist.

However, it is considered that the existing level of disclosure is insufficient to deter the abuse of the corporate structure by unscrupulous people and that the information held is often unreliable.

Accordingly, the Government has come up with new proposals to allow Companies House to undertake identity checks on those who set up new companies, or are involved in the running of companies, and to cross-reference that information with other sources in order to prevent false claims of audit assurance from well-known accounting firms, the appointment of 'ghost' directors (often well-known individuals) and the use of fake addresses. It is intended that transgressions will meet with penalties for those involved.

A consultation exercise is ongoing that will close at 11:45pm on 5 August. Legislation is to be expected in 2020.