New bill will shine more light on business ownership

Transparency International New Zealand welcomes the government’s intent to make it easier to see who owns and controls a company.

The Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs David Clark has heralded a bill to be introduced late this year that will require registered companies to provide accurate information about the ‘beneficial owners’ of a company.  A key change will be the use of unique identifiers for all beneficial owners, directors and general partners of limited partnerships. It will make it easier for anyone who needs to know who truly controls a company.

“The devil is in the detail but this looks like a considerable step towards greater transparency.” said Julie Haggie, CEO of Transparency International New Zealand.
“Several overseas jurisdictions have taken this practical approach, and we can learn from them as we implement it. The international requirement is for a government agency to not just record but verify the ownership: it is important this is included in the design.  The move should make the process of due diligence more efficient, more accurate, one would think, cheaper. But importantly from our point of view it will limit the ability of people to hide behind name variations and other forms of obfuscation, and will improve the identification who owns/controls companies in New Zealand. This will help to protect our country’s mana, and its reputation as a place of clean business dealings.”

Transparency International globally, and our national chapter have been advocating for years for more transparency around company ownership. This is one way to restrict the use of our company structures by people who want to hide the gains of corrupt activity or avoid tax. This is an important step in holding power to account in the business sector, whilst reducing compliance burdens for ordinary people.

“While this doesn't expand the regime to include Trusts, it is a step in the right direction" concludes Haggie.

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