Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Questions (45)

Robert Troy

Question:

45. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of companies by size that had filed with the new Register of Beneficial Ownership, which is overseen by the Companies Registration Office, by 22 November 2019; the number of filings as a percentage of all companies that have filed according to size breakdown; the number of companies by size that did not file with the RBO by this date; and the number as a percentage of all companies that did not file according to size breakdown. [50140/19]

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Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Business)

Question No. 45, in the name of Deputy Troy, will be introduced by Deputy Scanlon.

I would like the Minister of State to give the House the total number of companies, broken down by size, that had filed with the new Register of Beneficial Ownership, RBO, which is overseen by the Companies Registration Office, by 22 November last; to give the total number of filings as a percentage of all companies that had filed by that date according to size and breakdown; to give the total number of companies, broken down by size, that did not file with the RBO by this date; and to give the total number as a percentage of all companies that did not file according to size and breakdown.

I thank Deputy Scanlon for introducing this question. The European Union (Anti-Money Laundering: Beneficial Ownership of Corporate Entities) Regulations 2019, SI 110 of 2019, which were made by the Minister for Finance, provide that the Central Register of Beneficial Ownership of Companies and Industrial and Provident Societies is the central repository of such information held by companies and industrial and provident societies. The deadline for filing, as set out in the regulations, was 22 November last. The objectives of the beneficial ownership provisions that are being implemented are to strengthen transparency regarding who ultimately owns and controls companies and trusts and to detect, disrupt and prevent money laundering and terrorist financing effectively.

The number of companies filing increased steadily throughout last week as the deadline approached.  Due to technical difficulties, any submissions filed with the RBO by midnight on 25 November were treated by the RBO as having been received on time. Data from the RBO show that 152,989 companies had successfully registered beneficial ownership details with it by 25 November. This represents approximately 67% of the total number of registered companies. I believe this figure will continue to increase as submissions received before the deadline are processed. Unfortunately, a breakdown by size of company is not available. The focus of the RBO staff is on processing the many thousands of submissions that have been received. That work will be continuing. We will get the Deputy an update on that as time goes on.

I am glad to hear that the percentage of applications received has reached 67%. It would be very unfair if companies were penalised for a systems failure. There was a five-week period during which this system was set up and people had to register. Registering companies had to file with the new RBO at a time when they were preoccupied with tax returns. Will the Minister of State give companies that have not filed by Friday of this week more time to submit their registrations by extending the deadline to the end of the month? This would be an act of fairness and common sense for all small businesses.

I have a further update for the Deputy. On 27 November last, the number of companies that had registered was 157,577, or 69%. Given that we are further on again at this stage, I would say that over 70% of companies have now registered. They are being processed at present. We can expect further news on that.

I have to say that the deadline cannot be extended. I assure the Deputy that the RBO will take a reasonable, fair, practical and appropriate approach to this matter. Each entity that attempted to file with the RBO on time but missed the deadline will be dealt with case by case in accordance with its particular circumstances. The message we should transmit this evening should be that companies and societies that have not yet filed should do so as a matter or urgency. There was a fairly good advertising and public awareness campaign aimed at securing an increase in the number of companies registering. Emails were sent to 225,000 companies and 1,000 industrial and provident societies. Advertisements were placed in daily and Sunday newspapers and on local radio. A reasonable, fair and appropriate approach has been taken to ensure all companies get registered.

If 70% of companies have registered, that means 30% of companies have not yet done so. I ask that they be treated fairly. Not every company has the wherewithal to comply with all of these regulations. I am sure all companies will do so eventually. There is no doubt about that. It would be wrong if companies were penalised in any way. Each of them is trying to do its best to create jobs and survive in the world of today. I hope they will be treated fairly.

I assure the Deputy that they will be treated fairly. We all know about deadlines like our own income tax deadlines. People tend to wait until the last minute to pay these things or to get registered. As I have said, a steady flow of registrations is coming into the RBO at the moment. They are being processed. They will be treated fairly. I hope we can get that figure much higher before the end of the year to ensure all companies are registered. The awareness campaign I have mentioned will continue. People will be treated quite fairly.