Lifting the “cloak of secrecy” around the true ownership of shadowy shell companies will help combat corruption and ensure taxes are properly paid, David Cameron said yesterday.
The Prime Minister announced that a UK register of the beneficial ownership of companies would be made public, shining a spotlight on international cash flows.
Cameron, who made tax transparency a key theme of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, urged other world leaders to build on the commitments made at Lough Erne.
He promised a “relentless” pursuit of businesses which break the rules and said that by making the register public it will be easier for firms and developing countries to see who they are really dealing with.
Speaking at the Open Government Partnership summit in London, he said: “For too long a small minority have hidden their business dealings behind a complicated web of shell companies – and this cloak of secrecy has fuelled all manner of questionable practices and downright illegality.”
The decision to make the UK register publicly accessible was broadly welcomed by campaigners and business leaders. Katja Hall, chief policy director at the CBI said: “Businesses back the creation of a beneficial ownership register which will support efforts to promote transparency and stamp out illicit financial activity.
“The real prize is the ability to track ownership information around the world. Now that the UK has chosen to make this a public register, ensuring others follow our lead will be critical to its success and to maintaining a level playing field.”
Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, added: “Most British businesses already have transparent ownership structures.
“However, many will be concerned that the introduction of a universal register of beneficial ownership could create unintended consequences for law-abiding businesses, such as increased regulatory and reporting burdens.”