B.C. government introduces rules to crack down on hidden business ownership
29 Oct 2019

The B.C. government has introduced a new set of rules to further crack down on hidden ownership, money laundering and tax evasion in the province.

Starting in May 2020, private businesses will be required to keep transparency records of their true owners, including people or entities with direct or indirect control of the company or its shares.

Finance Minister Carole James said in a statement the records will help drive down B.C.’s real estate market and prevent distortions to the provincial economy.

“Right now, businesses operating in our province can hide their ownership behind numbered companies and offshore and domestic trusts,” James said.

“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.”

The amendments to the Business Corporations Act will require the transparency records to include full legal names, dates of birth, citizenship information and the last known addresses of anyone found to be an owner of a private business.

James said hidden ownership can be used to avoid paying taxes and launder money. Multiple reports have found money laundering to be running rampant in B.C.’s real estate and gaming economies.

Maureen Maloney’s expert panel report released in May said disclosure of beneficial ownership would be the “single most important measure that can be taken to combat money laundering.”

That report estimated $7.4 billion was laundered through B.C. in 2018 alone — $5 billion of which was laundered through real estate.

The panel found that illegal activity contributed to increasing the cost of buying a home in the province by at least five per cent.

“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.”

By Sean Boynton, Global News, 26 October 2019

Read more at Global News

Photo: BC Gov Photos [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

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