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1.2 - Beneficial ownership transparency

Objective and description:

Australia will improve transparency of information on beneficial ownership and control of companies available to relevant authorities.

As part of this, we will consult with the corporate sector, non-government organisations and the public on the details, scope and implementation of a beneficial ownership register for companies, as well as other options to improve beneficial ownership transparency.

Status Quo:

Improving transparency around who owns and benefits from companies is critical to protecting the integrity of our financial system and preventing the misuse of corporate structures for corruption and criminal activity. A beneficial ownership register shows who ultimately owns and benefits from the activities of companies.

Australia currently has tracing powers for beneficial ownership of listed companies and investment schemes, but there is room to strengthen transparency across all companies.

Australia has committed to the G20 Principles on Beneficial Ownership. The Principles state that countries should ensure that relevant authorities (including law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities, supervisory authorities, tax authorities and financial intelligence units) have timely access to adequate, accurate and current information regarding the beneficial ownership of legal persons (companies).

Ambition:

To ensure that adequate, accurate and timely information on beneficial ownership and control is available to relevant authorities in Australia to address issues of tax evasion, money laundering, corruption and terrorist financing.

To improve regional and international cooperation on taxation, including strengthening information sharing between tax authorities and sharing learnings to increase the transparency of beneficial ownership information. We will use outcomes of the work by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes to help develop proposals to improve implementation of relevant international standards on transparency, including on the availability and exchange of companies’ beneficial ownership information.

Relevance:

This commitment will advance the OGP values of transparency and accountability in business by:

  • improving the effectiveness of our legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks;

  • preventing the misuse ofcorporate structures for illicit purposes such as corruption, tax evasion and money laundering;

  • protecting the integrity of the financial system; and

  • increasing growth through private sector investment.

OGP Grand Challenge:

Increasing Corporate Accountability

Timeframes:

Recommendation to Government on improving transparency of information on beneficial ownership of companies available to relevant authorities by end 2017

Lead agency:

Treasury (beneficialownership@treasury.gov.au)

Other actors involved:  

  • Government - Attorney General’s Department , Australian Securities and Investment Commission, G20, Australian Taxation Office, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, regional partners and Australian Accounting Standards Board, state and territory governments

  • Non-government - Companies, peak bodies (including Law Council of Australia), non-government organisations (including Australian Open Government Partnership Network, Publish What You Pay Australia and Transparency International Australia), reporting entities under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act, FATF, Global Forum, international tax partners

Milestones:

  • Treasury to release a public consultation paper seeking views on the details, scope and implementation of a beneficial ownership register for companies. The consultation will also consider the use of nominee shareholdings to conceal beneficial ownership.

    • February 2017 - April 2017

  • Recommendation to Government on the details, scope and implementation of a beneficial ownership register for companies (informed by public consultation).

    • July 2017 - July 2017

  • Begin work to implement Government decision on transparency of beneficial ownership of companies.

    • August 2017 - Expected to continue for the duration of this Plan