As part of efforts to combat white-collar crime, British Columbia announced new rules requiring private companies to keep records on their ownership that will be available to government, police and tax officials.
The province’s Ministry of Finance announced that, under corporate law changes that will take effect on May 1, 2020, private businesses will be required to maintain certain records on their beneficial owners.
Companies will have to keep information on individuals that have direct or indirect control of a company or its shares.
The measures are designed to help put an end to hidden ownership, which, the government says, can be used to launder money and evade taxes.
“Hidden ownership is distorting our economy and driving up our real estate market,” said Carole James, B.C.’s minister of finance, in a statement.
“Right now, businesses operating in our province can hide their ownership behind numbered companies and offshore and domestic trusts. 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,” she said.
Finance compliance and audit officers will have access to the information, as will law enforcement, and the information can be shared with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
“Requiring businesses to maintain transparency registries means that criminals cannot hide what they own and that people are paying their fair share,” James said.
Earlier this week, B.C. also announced the introduction of new powers for the B.C. Securities Commission (BCSC) that are designed to give it stronger enforcement and collection tools, beefing up its ability to combat crime in the securities markets.