British Overseas Territories required by UK government to have public registers of company beneficial ownership

2018 May: On 1 May 2018 the UK government agreed to force the British Overseas Territories (BoTs) to introduce publicly available registers of company beneficial ownership by 2020. The Crown Dependent Territories (CDTs) of Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man were spared the same fate at this stage.

The BoTs are 14 territories under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom (UK), and include the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Anguilla, Turks and Caicos Islands and Gibraltar. They are the parts of the British Empire that have not been granted independence or have voted to remain British territories. These territories do not form part of the UK and, with the exception of Gibraltar, are not part of the European Union. The BoTs are mostly internally self-governing, with the UK retaining responsibility for defence and foreign relations.

Given this constitutional status, it is understandable that a number of the BOTs have warned they will challenge what they see as a revival of colonialism and an infringement of their constitutional right to self-determination and to manage their own economies.

At present the UK is the only country in the world that maintains a publicly available register of company beneficial ownership, introduced in 2016, and has been making concerted efforts for a long time to have the BoTs and CDTs do the same.

Public beneficial ownership registers will put those BoTs with offshore financial centres at a major disadvantage to their competitors. The BVI for example has close to 400,000 companies on its register and its economy relies heavily on the revenue received from those registrations. If the BVI cannot offer the beneficial owners of those companies the confidentiality they can receive elsewhere, its status as a leading offshore centre may be at serious risk.