The Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) is Here: U.S. National Beneficial Ownership Database Starting Soon

The Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”) of 2022 will require small legal entities, both domestic and foreign, to file information about themselves and the individuals who formed, own and control them with a division of the U.S. Treasury Department. Certain violations may result in the imposition of civil and criminal liability, including civil fines of $500/day, criminal fines of up to $250,000, and up to five (5) years in prison.

This act will potentially affect over 25 million existing business entities and another 3-4 million new entities each year. Compliance could theoretically be required sometime in 2022, although the regulator, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”), has acknowledged the effort required for implementation, including its own need to build technical infrastructure and the impact the CTA will have on U.S. secretaries of states.

Any legal entity that is formed through a filing in a state secretary of state’s office is potentially a “reporting company.” This includes but is not limited to corporations, LLCs, most partnerships, certain trusts, and other entities. Domestic and foreign entities can be “reporting companies.”

The CTA provides twenty-three exemptions from the definition of a “reporting company,” generally for larger entities or for entities that are already subject to significant state or federal regulation.

“Beneficial owners” are those who have substantial control over a reporting control or own or control at least 25% of it. They must provide their legal name, date of birth, residential street address, and the ID number from a state-issued ID, including a picture of the ID.

“Applicants” are the individuals who made the decision to form or register a reporting company with the secretary of state, as well as those who actually perform the filing. Attorneys and similar third-party service providers may all be “applicants.” Each applicant must provide their legal name, date of birth, business street address, and the ID number from a state-issued ID, including a picture of the ID.

Reporting companies, beneficial owners and applicants may apply to FinCEN for a FinCEN Identifier, which they may provide in lieu of their personal details. The requirements to obtain a FinCEN Identifier are proposed to be the same as would otherwise be required of beneficial owners.

Once the first wave of regulations takes effect, existing reporting companies will have one (1) year to make their initial report to FinCEN. Entities formed on or after the regulation’s effective date will have only 30 days to make their first reports (assuming FinCEN does not alter the timelines in its draft regulations). Any changed data will have to be reported within 30 days of the change. Errors in reported data must be corrected within 14 days of discovery.

Willful failure to report or willfully providing false beneficial ownership information or a false document or photograph “shall” be punished with a civil penalty of up to $500/day, plus a possible criminal fine of $10,000 and up to 2 years in prison, or both. Knowingly disclosing or using beneficial ownership data for an unauthorized purpose “shall” be punished with a civil penalty of $500/day, plus a mandatory criminal fine of up to $250,000 or up to 5 years in prison, or both.

Federal law enforcement, intelligence agencies and regulators, including the IRS, will be able to access the data without a court order. State law enforcement will need a court order. Exactly who may access the data, and how, will be defined in future regulations.


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