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Proposed register of overseas-owned UK property

Monday 10 April 2017

Proposals to deliver the world’s first register of overseas companies and other legal entities that own property in the UK have been published as part of the Government’s drive to build a fair economy.

The new plans would deliver the world’s first public register of overseas companies that own property in the UK, as part of the government's efforts to tackle corruption and improve corporate transparency.

Currently £25m of property is frozen worldwide in connection with ongoing National Crime Agency international corruption investigations.

The UK would be the first country to have a public register of this kind, which shows the beneficial owners of property controlled by overseas companies and other legal entities. The register would also list the beneficial owners of overseas-registered firms involved in central government procurement exercises.

While the Government welcomes legitimate foreign investment in the UK, since 2004, law enforcement investigations into international corruption have identified more than £180m of property in the UK as the suspected proceeds of corruption. In total, 75% of those investigated were found to be using overseas companies to hide their real owners.

This is important for estate agents because we know that members often report difficulties in determining the (ultimate) beneficial owner when a property is owned by a trust or corporate entity, particularly when it is a non-UK trust or company.

Mark Hayward, Chief Executive, NAEA Propertymark, said:

“This new register will set a gold standard for transparency and enhance the reputation of the UK property market as an attractive place to do business. We will be working closely with our members to help them understand the requirements that will help shape the world’s first register of its kind”

Business Minister Margot James said:

“We are committed to protecting the integrity and reputation of the UK property market and this register would be a valuable measure to increase transparency and investor confidence.

“The extension of transparency requirements, which UK owners are already subject to, levels the playing field and means we would know who owns and controls UK property wherever they are from.

“Today we are inviting the views of overseas investors, property and transparency experts on how this register could be delivered.”

Donald Toon, Director for Economic Crime at the National Crime Agency said:

“Criminals and their money launderers will always seek to hide the true ownership of assets, including property, to frustrate investigations and hold onto the profits of their crimes. Greater transparency over the true ownership and control of UK property held in the name of overseas companies will make the UK a less attractive place to launder money and will assist investigators track down and recover the proceeds of crime.”

The Government has now launched a call for evidence, which is open until 15 May and NAEA Propertymark will be responding to the consultation. To ensure your views form part of our response, please email them to Tim Douglas, Propertymark Policy & Campaigns Officer.

View the full consultation