The B.C. government is changing legislation to force businesses and partnerships to disclose the actual owners of property, as part of its effort to curtail tax evasion and money laundering.
Finance Minister Carole James introduced two bills Tuesday, one to require disclosure of property owners, and another to set up a “transparency registry” to keep records up to date and curtail the use of “shell companies” to avoid identification.
“Currently companies are susceptible to being used for criminal activity, as they are able to hide the identity of the owners of the company,” James told the legislature. “The transparency register will be kept in a company’s records office, and information on it will be accessible to the police, tax authorities and regulators in investigation.”
James said the goal is to have the registry in operation by 2020, listing beneficial ownership for corporations and trusts.
The Land Owner Transparency Act will be backed up by random audits to ensure compliance, and there will be fines for failing to register.
“For years, people were able to use shell companies, trusts and partnerships to hide who really owned the property in British Columbia,” James said. “The act sets out a framework for increasing transparency of ownership in the province by requiring disclosure from corporations, trustees and partnerships about the underlying owners of land.”