Companies House has stripped away confidentiality for people who own or control companies in Britain.
The new Companies House database will identify anyone with significant control of a company from April 6, 2016.
Significant ownership or control extends to anyone holding more than 25% of shares or voting rights in a company.
The definition can also be extended to someone who has the right to hire or fire directors.
The aim of the new measure is to give people dealing with companies more insight to who really owns the shares – including investors and police or regulators investigating money laundering or other crimes.
Complicated legal points
The new register will help crowdfunding investors who want to know more about where their money is going in a start-up fundraising round.
Prime Minister David Cameron set the wheels of more transparency for companies in motion when he chaired the G8 summit promising more disclosure of company ownership – and also managed to persuade the European Union and G20 group of developed countries to change their company registration rules as well.
However, he actively lobbied against extending the measure to trusts – and in light of recent Panama Papers revelations about his family offshore trust in the British Virgin Islands, this lobbying looks suspicious.
“There are some complicated legal points about making the same disclosures for trusts,” said Business Minister Baroness Neville Rolf.
“Companies that fail to disclose the information now required by law are disguising who owns them and are not playing by the rules and have something to hide.
Tackles accountability and abuse
“This is the first register of its kind in the world and will help tackle accountability and tax abuse.”
From now on, all companies have to file a return every year that identifies anyone with significant control or ownership of a company.
This includes names, month and year of birth, nationality and a description of their interest in the company.
The information also has to be kept on the company register.
Guidance about the information companies and limited liability partnerships should file is available on the government web site
Information from the register is available by searching the Companies House database online, which should return an overview, filing history and details of officers of a company for the millions of companies registered in the UK.