On September 30, 2022, the federal Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) published final regulations governing beneficial ownership reporting requirements under the Corporate Transparency Act (the “Final Rule”). The Final Rule substantially mirrors the draft rules covered in our earlier blog on the topic. The Final Rule becomes effective January 1, 2024. See our summary and tips below to prepare for the upcoming reporting requirements.
Who must report?
The Final Rule requires a “reporting company” to report certain information to FinCEN regarding its beneficial owners and company applicants. A “reporting company” is any domestic or foreign entity created or registered to do business in a U.S. state or Indian tribal jurisdiction (“Reporting Company”). This definition would seemingly capture nearly all US businesses, although there are 23 categories of exemptions set forth in the Final Rule, including (i) certain inactive entities, (ii) insurance companies, (iii) financial institutions, and (iv) large operating companies employing more than 20 full-time employees, having an operating presence in the U.S., and having gross receipts for sales in the U.S. exceeding $5,000,000.
Who is reported?
Each Reporting Company must report information concerning its “beneficial owners,” which includes any individual who, directly or indirectly, exercises “substantial control” over or owns or controls 25% or more of the “ownership interests” of the Reporting Company (“Beneficial Owners”).
An individual has “substantial control” over a Reporting Company if they serve as a senior officer, have authority over the appointment or removal of any senior officer or a majority of the directors (or similar body), or directs, determines, or substantially influences important Reporting Company decisions. FinCEN indicated that it designed the “substantial control” element to capture the key individuals of the Reporting Company who direct its actions and to “focus the applicability [of the Final Rule] on the senior officer element of the definition of substantial control”.
In the Final Rule, the definition of “ownership interest’’ more broadly focuses on types of arrangements that directly or indirectly convey ownership interests, such as equity, convertible instruments, and put options. Additionally, the definition of “ownership interest” now includes a catch-all provision for “any other instrument, contract, arrangement, understanding, relationship, or other mechanism used to establish ownership.” Importantly, any option or similar interest of the Reporting Company is treated as exercised in determining “ownership interest.”
In response to extensive public comments on the topic of a “company applicant”, the Final Rule requires Reporting Companies created or registered on or after January 1, 2024, to report information related to a “company applicant.” A company applicant is the individual(s) primarily responsible for directly filing the document that creates or registers a Reporting Company, such as a law firm (“Company Applicant”). Entities created or registered before January 1, 2024, are not required to report information with respect to any “company applicant.”
What information must reports include?
The initial report for the Reporting Company must include the legal name, any trade name or d/b/a name, principal place of business address in the U.S., state of formation or registration, and its IRS employee identification number. The Reporting Company must also provide the full name, date of birth, current address, the number and issuing jurisdiction of a passport, identification card, or driver’s license, and a photo of the identification document used for each Beneficial Owner and Company Applicant.
When must reports be filed?
Reporting Companies in existence prior to January 1, 2024 must file its initial report before January 1, 2025. Reporting Companies created or registered on or after January 1, 2024 must file its initial report within 30 calendar days of receiving actual notice that it was created or registered to do business with a secretary of state or similar office. If a Reporting Company’s exemption status changes, a report must be filed within 30 calendar days of the change in exemption status. Lastly, if there are any changes to the information filed in the initial report, an updated report must be submitted within 30 calendar days of the change.
What proactive compliance steps should businesses take?
The Final Rule imposes considerable new federal compliance requirements on businesses. Although some entities will be exempted, many will not. Every business should investigate whether it is a Reporting Company or qualifies for an exemption. A Reporting Company’s failure to comply with the reporting requirements could result in significant penalties and possible imprisonment.
Businesses with reporting obligations should create and implement internal policies and procedures to ensure that all reporting is timely and properly made. It’s not too early to begin collecting the information your business may need to report. Additionally, businesses and business attorneys should consider adding provisions to certain agreements requiring the applicable people to cooperation with required information collection and reporting, and update confidentiality clauses to carve out exceptions for reporting requirements.
If you have any questions or concerns about how the beneficial reporting requirements may impact your business, contact an attorney from our Business Group.
See the final rule here.