The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has started the regulatory process of implementing a new beneficial ownership register for businesses by publishing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) seeking comment on the proposals.

The register is a key measure in the Corporate Transparency Act passed by Congress on New Year’s Day and is intended to tackle the United States’ problem with money laundering through shell companies.

Under the act, for every beneficial owner, companies must report their full legal name, date of birth, current residential or business street address and a unique identifying number from an acceptable identification document or a new “FinCEN identifier”. Beneficial owners are defined as exercising substantial control over the business or owning or controlling at least 25 percent of the ownership interests.

The new ANPR published by FinCEN asks for a feedback on a wide range of different areas relating to how the registry will work within the constraints of the act.

The notice includes questions on definitions of terms used to determine who reports, how beneficial ownership information should be reported, how the ‘FinCEN Identifier’ should work, how information can be kept secure and private and how FinCEN can minimise the cost to businesses.

The Act requires FinCEN to maintain the information in a “non-public database”. This differs from registries in other countries, notably the United Kingdom’s Companies House, which is an open register.

Janet Yellen, the new US Treasury Secretary, in January said improving corporate transparency was a “very high priority” and pledged to get the registry built as quickly as possible.

The deadline for comments is 5 May.

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