On August 24th, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) issued a guidance that requires private banks, credit unions and trust companies to identify the beneficial owners of legal entities and the people who control these entities. The step is taken to track down people who are hiding company ownership to avoid taxes and other government rules.
As the readers may recall, the rules announced in May 2016 covered federally regulated banks.
It is believed that the FinCen will also soon announce that certain other banks and financial institutions will also be covered under these rules. Banks authorized by law in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to provide banking and other services to nonresident aliens can also be included.
The IRS said this list isn’t exclusive and could be expanded at some point.
In one feature likely to attract attention, FinCEN didn’t propose changing the ownership percentage that triggers reporting from the 25% required in the final rule in May.
Some called for the agency to lower it, asserting that 25% was too high and wouldn’t catch numerous taxpayers trying to hide from the IRS. Others said it was too low and would create big hassles for banks.
FinCEN said it considered increasing the ownership percentage to 50%, but finally concluded that 25% is “appropriate to maximize the benefits of the requirement while minimizing the burden.”
The beneficial ownership rules would require banks to enhance customer identification programs and anti-money laundering initiatives.