BRITISH Columbia is taking the next step in its fight against money laundering and tax evasion by requiring private B.C. businesses to keep transparency records of beneficial owners.
“Hidden ownership is distorting our economy and driving up our real estate market,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance. “Right now, businesses operating in our province can hide their ownership behind numbered companies and offshore and domestic trusts. This is hurting communities throughout our province that are dealing with the consequences of criminal activity and high home prices, and it needs to stop.”
Effective May 1, 2020, amendments to the Business Corporations Act will require private businesses in B.C. to keep and maintain transparency records of beneficial owners, including individuals who have direct or indirect control of the company or its shares. Information collected includes full legal name, date of birth, citizenship and last known address.
The amendments will help end hidden ownership, which can be used to avoid taxes and launder money, by requiring private companies to hold accurate and up-to-date information about the true owners of a company.
“The previous government let criminals shelter the illegal proceeds of crime, but we are listening to British Columbians, experts and municipalities to end hidden ownership,” James said. “Requiring businesses to maintain transparency registries means that criminals cannot hide what they own and that people are paying their fair share.”
Ministry of Finance compliance and auditing officers, as well as law enforcement officials, will have access to the registry. Information may also be shared with the Canada Revenue Agency in efforts to stop tax evasion.
* B.C.’s Expert Panel on Money Laundering in Real Estate report identified disclosure of beneficial ownership as the “single most important measure that can be taken to combat money laundering.”
* The panel’s report estimated that $7.4 billion was laundered through B.C. in 2018, $5 billion of which is estimated to have been laundered through real estate.
* Announced earlier in 2019, the Land Owner Transparency Act will create Canada’s first beneficial land ownership registry for real estate.