Can you conceal the information about your owning an offshore company? Not entirely… but if you register a company in an offshore jurisdiction, you can keep this information from your aggressive competitors, corporate raiders, kidnappers or your greedy ex-spouse!
Notwithstanding the pressure on the part of the OECD, European Commission, FATF, and other international bodies, some offshore jurisdictions manage to keep their right to protect their residents’ personal information private at the state level. Sometimes, registering an offshore company is the only way to keep your company ownership secret.
Please note that in the future, offshore jurisdictions will probably have to have public registers of company owners. They will have to do so to come in keeping with the international regulations aimed against money laundering and tax base erosion.
At the current moment, however, such popular offshore countries as Belize, Nevis, Marshall Islands, St Lucia, and some others still have company owner registers that are closed to the public.
Who has access to the information about the owner of a ‘classic’ offshore company?
When you set up a company in one of the so-called ‘classic’ offshore jurisdiction, your ownership information is securely protected by the law. Violations of the law are punishable with prison sentences. Let us see which three organizations will have access to the information about the company beneficial ownership in any event:
- You have to involve a registered agent in the process of offshore company formation in any case. Whether you are establishing an International Business Company, a Trust, or an Investment Fund, you have to reveal to the registered agent who the company UBO’s are. These are modern KYC and Due Diligence requirements and nothing can be done about them.
- The company beneficial owner information is also going to be available to your professional corporate intermediary that will establish a liaison between you and the registration agent and provide additional company maintenance services to you. Offshore Pro Group guarantees that your personal information is going to remain confidential at all times. This data, once again, is protected by professional secrecy laws.
- The bank where you set up a corporate account will also have to know the names of the company UBO’s. The reality is such that acquiring banking services is impossible unless you supply the information about all company stockholders, beneficiaries, and the sources of income.
We understand how important the confidentiality of the company ownership information can be and we take full responsibility for keeping it to ourselves. The registration agent will adhere to the same principles. If the national legislation prohibits revealing company UBO’s information to third parties, any violations of the laws will be punished and the agent can be arrested if he or she breaks the law.
Your personal information available to the bank is a different matter.
Please note that any bank has to share the information about the beneficiaries of the company that it services with the tax authorities of the country of their tax residency. Otherwise, the bank will lose the license.
This explains why the banks require that the information about offshore company owners be revealed to them in full. In addition to that, you have to remember that many countries now practice automatic exchange of fiscal information so your account history is going to be available to the fiscal authorities in any case. If this concerns you, it is a better to bank in a country that has not signed up for automatic exchange of information.
Who is entitled to obtain information about offshore company owners?
Any jurisdiction will have a company register – closed or public. If the jurisdiction where you register the company has a closed company register, unauthorized access to the information is prohibited. You as the company owner (or the company director) can decide who can have access to the company ownership information.
At the same time, your company ownership information cannot, of course, be deemed perfectly secure even if the company register is closed to the public. What can be the legal reasons to disclose this information? These include the following ones:
- The company is involved in a serious court trial.
- International authorities express concern about the company activities.
- The company is on the fiscal authorities’ radar screen.
- The company fails to meet the requirements of the tax authorities of a country where CFC (Controlled Foreign Company) rules are applied.
That is to say: only official bodies can have access to the company ownership information that a closed company register possesses. This might include the official bodies of foreign states as well, but sometimes a bilateral agreement is required for that. On the other hand, it is a basic principle of international law that court decisions from one country are not enforceable in another unless additional steps are legal taken.
Banking privacy has become non-existent: how can you keep competitors away?
Companies worldwide are of course expected to keep accurate financial records. In addition to that, local authorities they may request filing of annual financial statements too. The records may be required when the company registration is extended or license renewed.
Please note that we do not promote offshore company registration for the purpose of tax evasion or any other illegal purposes. Our goal is to help wealthy people to protect their capitals from encroachments on the part of competitors, raiders, and greedy relatives.
Our experts will be happy to review your requirements suggest some solutions to meet your needs. With our assistance, you can successfully set up an offshore company and a payment account with a bank, payment system or a neobank (digital bank). Besides, banks in international financial centres also offer a high level of confidentiality protection to the owners of the companies that are registered in tax havens. They do not automatically exchange their clients’ information with the authorities of other countries.
Public registers in the EU countries
Company registers are open to the public in many European countries but the degree of their openness can be different. Most of them will make the company UBO’s information fully accessible. Others will only keep the information about the company shareholders available to the public. Sometimes the information can be easily found on the Internet. In most cases, you do not have to pay anything to obtain the information while in other cases you will be charged a negligible fee for it.
Let us see which state bodies can acquire information from the company registers in some popular European jurisdictions (those that have a large number of foreign-owned companies registered there):
|European Countries||Official organizations authorized to obtain company ownership information from the company register||Is there a public company register?|
|Malta||Anti-money laundering organizations authorized conduct investigations and sue companies, finds, and trusts; financial intelligence units; national fiscal bodies; any body that makes a legally grounded request.||Yes|
|Cyprus||The access rights will be defined in the legislation that is not ready at the moment. Currently, customs and fiscal departments and their divisions have access to the information. It is also available to those responsible for client identification.||In the making|
|Czech Republic||The information about the company owner is available to the official bodies combating tax evasion as well as judicial and controlling authorities. Access to the information has to be granted by the Czech Ministry of Justice.||Yes|
|Luxembourg||Since September 1, 2019, access to the company register information can be granted to anybody who requests it. All data are disclosed with the exception of the company owner’s personal address and his/ her identification number in Luxembourg. The information about the company UBO’s is not published in open sources.||Yes|
|United Kingdom||The information about the company owners is available to any law enforcement agency including the National Crime Agency and financial intelligence unit.||Yes|
|Estonia||The data that the commercial register contains are available to any third party at 1 EUR only. Anyone can search the information on the Internet by the company name, register code, or VAT number.||Yes|
As we can see, in some countries, the public company register will share the information only with the official bodies while in other countries this information is accessible to anyone. Please also bear in mind that the company register in every country will request different amounts of the UBO’s information when the company is set up. Some of them will be satisfied with the owners’ names while others will want to have more in-depth information.
Please apply for our assistance in choosing the optimal jurisdiction where you can set up an offshore company with the maximum available personal information confidentiality.
Many offshore havens have in the past attracted foreign investors with an offer of financial secrecy, but this is changing. You should not try to register an offshore company with the purpose of evading taxes, as this could be a criminal offence. As a rule, wealthy people set up offshore companies to protect their assets from possible encroachments at home. In addition to that, offshore jurisdictions boast a high level of economic and political stability. Business owners there do not have to worry that they may lose their companies if the Government in the country changes.
How can you keep your personal information confidential if the company register is open to the public?
If you set up a company in a jurisdiction that has an open company register, but want to keep your beneficial ownership private, there are some legal ways to do this, that would be outside the scope of this article (ownership through trusts or through public companies listed on stock exchanges, for example).
On the other hand, as you can see from the table above, even a public company register may not give access to the information to anybody in many national states. If you do not violate the law, your company ownership information can still remain perfectly confidential. In other words, there are ways to protect your privacy (or at least to improve the level of your privacy protection) by registering an offshore company.
Please feel free to ask for for our experts’ advice on creating an effective mechanism of protecting your personal data from third parties. We will be happy to provide a free initial consultation to you on this matter if you contact us by email, WhatsApp, or our live chat. We always promptly reply to clients’ messages!
Who has access to company owners’ information if the company register is closed to the public?
Closed company registers are common in offshore jurisdictions. Only official bodies can gain access to the information kept at such registers. In addition, they have to provide legal foundations for requesting the information. A third party can learn only about the company name and the name of its director from a closed company register. If the information is disclosed to an unauthorized person, the clerk responsible for that will be legally prosecuted.
Who has access to company beneficiaries’ information if the company register is open to the public?
If the company register is open to the public, it does not usually mean that anybody can obtain company information in full. On an unofficial request, only part of the information will be disclosed such as the names of the company founders, shareholders, corporate structure, and so on while other information will remain private. On the other hand, fiscal, judicial, and other official bodies can gain access to all the information contained in the register on a legally grounded request.
How can I keep my company ownership information private?
One option is to hire nominees. In this case, however, you are going to face problems in acquiring banking services as bankers dislike nominees. What is more, you will have to supply complete information to the bank anyway when setting up a corporate account for your foreign company. Another option is using a multi-layer corporate structure that contains a company registered in a jurisdiction that neither exchanges its residents’ fiscal information nor follows the CRS (Common Reporting Standards).