Fees for registering a business will increase tenfold under economic crime plans

Company registration fees are set to reach up to £100 as part of a crackdown on economic crime.

Companies House, the register of companies, is looking at the increased charges as a way to fund new liabilities to tackle illegal business it is gaining under laws pending in parliament. Entry fees currently start at just £10.

The agency is set to receive enhanced powers and responsibilities that will require it to scrutinize information submitted by companies and administrators, ensuring it is accurate.

It is part of changes proposed by ministers to stem the tide of dirty money flowing into the UK after renewed scrutiny following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Companies House – which currently has around 1,000 staff – said it will need to hire at least 100 more people to enforce the rules, as well as retrain some existing staff.

On Friday, a government spokesperson confirmed that the legislation will allow “the cost of investigative and enforcement activities… to be covered by fees”.

However, Martin Swain, director of strategy and policy at Companies House, said the organization was still in discussions about what its future funding would be and how much would come from higher fees.

In a report released earlier this year, Treasury Select Committee MPs called for the company registration fee to be raised to £100.

They claimed that it would not be high enough to deter genuine entrepreneurs, but would raise significant additional funds for the fight against economic crime.

Mr Swain told MPs on Tuesday that Companies House had received a one-off £63million for the overhaul but had not yet agreed its budget for the 2023/24 financial year – which starts in April – with the Ministry of Business.

Addressing a public bill committee, he said: ‘It is fair to say that we have been clear with the Department and the Treasury that we are taking on important new duties and responsibilities.

“Part of that will require more people and people with different skills than what we have now.

“We could increase the fee to pay for additional resources. I know there is a challenge to keep the fees too low.

Anti-corruption campaigners have argued for years that Britain’s lowest company registration fees and lack of scrutiny of information submitted to Companies House have made the country a magnet for money laundering. silver.

Ministers are trying to address these concerns with a series of provisions in the new Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill.

The bill attempts to transform Companies House from a ‘passive’ entity into a ‘gatekeeper’ of accurate company information, which will have the ability to challenge companies and demand that company directors prove their identify.

As part of this, the registry will also gain new powers to change the fees charged for various services, helping to fund its new functions and recoup the costs of verifying information.

Nick Van Benschoten, head of anti-money laundering at UK Finance banking trade group, said countries currently charging similar amounts to Companies House include Benin and Turkmenistan, two countries where corruption is rampant. .

He told MPs: ‘I’m not sure this is the company the UK wants to keep.

“It is important to note that in other EU countries with large financial centers it is between £50 and £100. This does not seem to us to be an unreasonable amount.

On Friday, a government spokesperson said: ‘The UK already has some of the toughest controls in the world to tackle money laundering, but we are continuing to improve our governance to crack down on criminals.

“The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill addresses the use of thousands of UK businesses and other corporate structures as vehicles to facilitate international money laundering, fraud, corruption, the financing of terrorism and the illegal movement of arms.”

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