Q&A: The point of the public register

 

What is a shell company?

A firm which exists on paper as a vehicle for business transactions, but has few obvious assets such as employees or premises.

How do you create one?

You only need about 10 minutes’ spare time and a credit card. It is easier than applying for a driving licence.

What are the advantages?

Keeping a company’s ultimate ownership under wraps. There are many cases of shell companies owned by a chain of other shell companies.

What will the register do?

Require UK-registered firms to declare to Companies House everyone who has a stake of 25 per cent or more in the business. Failure to comply would be a criminal offence.

Will there be exceptions?

Details could still be kept private if a risk to safety is feared – for instance, information about the owners of companies involved in animal testing.

When will it happen?

David Cameron wants it operational by 2015, but complicated legislation is required.

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