April 18, 2023 A Guide to Authorised Corporate Service Providers (ACSPs)
The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill (the Bill) is the latest effort to tackle anti-money laundering and strengthen the role of the UK Registrar of companies, also known as Companies House. The Bill is a follow-up to The Economic Crime Transparency and Enforcement Act 2022 (ECTEA), which saw the introduction of the Register of Overseas Entities.
When the Bill becomes law all new and existing company directors, People with Significant Control (PSCs) and anyone delivering documents to Companies House will have to have their identity verified with the aim of tackling abuse and increasing transparency.
To help facilitate verification, the bill introduces the new role of the Authorised Corporate Service Provider (ACSP). The Bill is not yet law, but now that it has entered the final stages of the legislative process we take a look at it in more detail.
For more details about director identity verification, please see our separate guide.
What is an ACSP?
The term Authorised Corporate Service Provider is being introduced under the Bill and will be enacted through amendments to existing legislation.
There are similarities with the term UK Regulated Agent which was introduced as part of the Register of Overseas Entities regime. UK Regulated Agents are responsible for verifying the information of overseas entities that own UK land and their beneficial owners. Verification is an important part of the role ACSPs play too, although the role is broader.
Who can be an ACSP?
To become an ACSP a person or firm must be a ‘relevant person’ under the Money Laundering Regulations. This includes accounting firms, law firms, auditors, and corporate service providers, such as Elemental.
Again, this is a similar approach to the ROE; however, unlike the ROE certain exclusions haven’t (yet) been applied such as casinos and crypto asset exchanges. ACSPs are likely to be UK based.
To become an ACSP an applicant much first apply to Companies House and in the case of an individual application (as opposed to a firm) their identity must also be verified. The registrar will carry out checks with the supervisory authority before granting approval.
What is the role of an ACSP?
An ACSP fulfil two roles. First, it is responsible for delivering documents to the Registrar on behalf of the client, in the same way as it currently would for filings such as incorporations or confirmation filings. Secondly, it would complete the mandatory identity verification on behalf of the client and confirm this to Companies House through a “verification statement”. The ACSP would also support with any re-verification requirements, though these are expected to apply only in certain situations e.g. a change of name.
The Bill may also impose requirements on ACSPs to provide information to Companies House at their request or at certain intervals and to keep records for inspection.
Why do you need an ACSP?
For certain entities, engaging an ACSP will be mandatory e.g. limited partnerships are a particular area of focus and certain documents will only be able to be delivered to the Registrar by an ACSP. Others may choose to engage an ACSP for the convenience and reassurance that the verification has been completed properly and within time.
As previously seen with ECTEA under this new Bill “it is an offence for a person, without reasonable excuse, to: deliver or cause to be delivered to the registrar, for the purposes of this Act, a document that is misleading, false or deceptive in a material particular”. Understandably those with less experience in carrying out AML checks or who are responsible for many entities may want expert help.
How can Elemental help?
Elemental is an industry leader in supporting law firms and their clients with economic crime compliance. Elemental was the number 1 UK Regulated Agent during the Register of Overseas Entities transition period having completed more filings than any other provider (Source: Companies House). The firm has written on the subject for Practical Law, LexisNexis and Companies House. We will be supporting new and existing clients with the new verification and filing requirements once the Bill becomes law. If any of our clients or partner firms have any questions in the meantime please don’t hesitate to get in touch.