23 Ott Companies House Reform: Compliance, Intelligence and Data Sharing
The government intends to permit the cross-referencing of data held by Companies House against other data sets to improve the quality of information held by other public and private sector bodies. However, concrete detail is lacking and reforms that would have gone further, such as requiring companies to provide details of any overseas bank accounts, were rejected. Below, Elemental reviews how the government proposes to ensure compliance and share intelligence.
Corporate transparency and register reform: Government Response
In the fifth and final of a series of articles examining the recently published government response to the consultation on enhancing the role of Companies House and transparency of UK corporate entities, we review the reform of compliance and data sharing.
Cross-referencing with data sets, feedback loops and risk-based intelligence sharing
There was strong support behind the proposal for Companies House to compare its data against data sets held by other public and private sector bodies. The most suggested data set was HMRC, however others were suggested including HM Passport Office, DVLA, DWP, HM Land Registry and the electoral register.
The government has decided to proceed with the proposals as part of a package of measures which are key to tackling the misuse of corporate entities and combatting economic crime. The goal is to provide businesses with increased confidence in the information held on the company register.
Such an undertaking will present significant IT and data protection challenges. It is, therefore, unsurprising that the next step in the process is a feasibility study and a review of the IT systems that will facilitate the exchange and comparison of data.
Disclosure of Banking Information
The government invited views on whether companies should be obliged to provide details of their overseas bank accounts to Companies House. Most responses were negative citing privacy and data protection concerns along with the risk of fraud.
The government acknowledges the concerns and, although there would be some benefit to law enforcement agencies having access to such data, the burden placed on companies would outweigh this. Therefore, the proposals will not be taken forward.
Corporate Transparency and Register Reform – Conclusions
This and the previous articles published by Elemental have discussed the main issues raised following the publication of the government’s response to the consultation on options to enhance the role of Companies House and increase the transparency of UK corporate entities.
The reforms, rushed out following the FinCEN file leak by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, have been broadly welcomed by professional bodies such as the ICAEW and the ICSA. Many of the reforms feel overdue and, if implemented correctly, will greatly improve the confidence in the information supplied by Companies House.
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