Guernsey Hands-off Public Registry of Beneficial Ownership Demand

Downing Street had written to the head of Guernsey’s Finance Department requesting that the Channel Island make public its recently created “Registry of Beneficial Ownership” of Guernsey companies.  This received a lukewarm response in Guernsey: which has basically said that it would only consider making this data public when a significant number of other countries in the world do the same: according to a report this week in CCH Global Daily Tax News.

In 1989 Guernsey introduced statutory regulation of Trust and Company Service Providers: something which still does not happen in many territories around the world, including the UK.   In 2000 further legislation on the island obliges all beneficial owners of Guernsey companies, and other legal persons such as trusts, to be properly identified and recorded by the regulated Trust and Corporate Service Providers.  It is still one of only a handful of jurisdictions that have such measures in place.  However, this information is not available for public scrutiny.

Guernsey is already giving the taxman in the UK details of British residents with financial institution accounts on the island (e.g. a Guernsey bank account).  This has led to a large number of tax investigations into those individuals by HMRCs Offshore Coordination Unit, and has led to the creation of a UK tax amnesty, known as the Guernsey Disclosure Facility.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron: wrote to Guernsey saying: “I believe that beneficial ownership and public access to a central register is a key to improving the transparency of company ownership and vital to meeting the urgent challenges of illicit finance and tax evasions.”

The Chief Executive of Guernsey Finance responded: “Guernsey has always maintained client confidentiality and this information is not [currently] shared publicly… we look forward to other jurisdictions [creating] a level playing field on beneficial ownership. Whether that will include a truly public register remains to be seen given …the potential negative impact on inward investment for any jurisdictions which adopt measures that are not global in reach.” In other words, she will not hamper Guernsey’s role as a major finance centre, unless a large number of other countries around the world also introduce the same measures; so that the island is not put at a competitive disadvantage.

What does this mean for me?
If you are the ultimate beneficial owner of a Guernsey-based trust or company, then at the moment your details are kept on a secret register maintained on the Channel Island.  Currently only the Guernsey authorities can see the register.  However, the Guernsey government is under significant global pressure to make this information public.  Given the almost unbelievably rapid speed at which so-called tax havens around around the world are now sharing information, you may consider that it is only a matter of time before this data is made public.  If you have any historic tax irregularities connected to any Guernsey-based trusts or companies, now may be the time to take advantage of the favourable terms of the Guernsey Disclosure Facility, and to sort out your UK tax affairs voluntarily.

How can Lynam Tax Disclosure Experts help me?
Our Tax Disclosure Specialists have decades of experience of handling tax investigations and offshore tax disclosures involving non-UK bank accounts, trusts, and companies.  We are one of the UK’s leading specialists in using the Offshore Tax Amnesties. We can assess your particular situation and advise you of the optimum route.  We can manage your disclosure, and guide you to a successful outcome – as we have done for many satisfied clients.

To find out how we can help you and for a free, confidential and no obligation discussion, call:

Paul Lynam: 0845 643 9997

Andrew Nutbrown: 0771 877 8710