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Ultimate Guide to Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting.

Updated: Jan 12

Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting Guide

I. Beneficial Owners

Who is a beneficial owner of a reporting company?

A beneficial owner is an individual who either directly or indirectly:

(1) exercises substantial control (see Question D.2) over the reporting company, or

(2) owns or controls at least 25% of the reporting company’s ownership interests.

FinCEN’s Small Entity Compliance Guide provides checklists and examples that may assist in identifying beneficial owners.


What is substantial control?

An individual can exercise substantial control over a reporting company in four different ways. If the individual falls into any of the categories below, the individual is exercising substantial control:

  • The individual is a senior officer (the company’s president, chief financial officer, general counsel, chief executive officer, chief operating officer, or any other officer who performs a similar function).

  • The individual has the authority to appoint or remove certain officers or a majority of directors (or similar body) of the reporting company.

  • The individual is an important decision-maker for the reporting company. See Question D.3 for more information.

  • The individual has any other form of substantial control over the reporting company as explained further in FinCEN’s Small Entity Compliance Guide (see Chapter 2.1, “What is substantial control?”).

1. Who is a Beneficial Owner?

A beneficial owner is someone who either directly or indirectly has substantial control over a company, or owns/controls at least 25% of the company’s ownership interests. FinCEN's guide provides helpful checklists and examples for identifying beneficial owners, a crucial aspect of compliance issued on September 18, 2023.

2. Defining Substantial Control

Substantial control can be wielded in several ways – from being a senior officer to having decision-making authority over key aspects of the company. It's not just about the title; it's about the influence and authority one holds within the organization. This definition, detailed on September 18, 2023, is key to understanding who holds the reins in a company.

3. The Role of Important Decision-Makers

Important decision-makers, those influencing the company’s business, finances, and structure, also constitute substantial control. Identifying these individuals is vital in understanding the power dynamics within a company. This concept was issued on September 18, 2023.

4. Ownership Interests Explained

Ownership interests go beyond just shares or equity. It encompasses any mechanism that establishes ownership rights within a company. This broad definition, discussed in FinCEN’s guide on September 18, 2023, is central to identifying beneficial owners.

5. Exceptions to the Beneficial Owner Rule

There are specific instances where an individual, despite meeting the criteria, might be exempt from being reported as a beneficial owner. FinCEN's guide provides a checklist to determine these exceptions, helping companies navigate the complexities of reporting.

6. Accountants and Lawyers as Beneficial Owners

Generally, accountants and lawyers don’t qualify as beneficial owners unless they're performing tasks that involve substantial control, like being a general counsel. This distinction, updated on November 16, 2023, is crucial for professional service providers.

7. Reporting Ownership Interests Through Exempt Entities

In cases where a beneficial owner holds interests exclusively through multiple exempt entities, the names of these entities can be reported instead. However, if interests are held through both exempt and non-exempt entities, the individual must be reported. This rule, issued on September 29, 2023, provides clarity on reporting nuances.

8. Unaffiliated Companies and Beneficial Ownership

An unaffiliated company managing day-to-day operations but not making key decisions is not a beneficial owner. This highlights the distinction between operational management and substantial control, a vital consideration issued on September 29, 2023.

9. Board Members as Beneficial Owners

Not all board members are beneficial owners. It depends on their level of control or ownership interest. This determination must be made on an individual basis, as outlined in FinCEN’s guide on September 29, 2023.

10. Partnership Representatives and Tax Matters Partners

A partnership representative or tax matters partner isn't automatically a beneficial owner. Their status depends on the level of control or ownership interest they hold in the company. This nuanced approach, detailed on November 16, 2023, is essential for companies with complex partnership structures.

Understanding these aspects of beneficial ownership is key to ensuring compliance and maintaining transparency in the corporate world. Stay informed and prepared with these insights from FinCEN’s guidelines.

1. The Timing for Reporting: What You Need to Know

As of January 1, 2024, FinCEN's BOI E-Filing website is operational, marking a significant shift in how companies report their beneficial ownership information. If your company was established before this date, you have until January 1, 2025, to file your initial report. For those established in 2024, a 90-day window post-registration is provided, while companies created from 2025 onwards have a 30-day timeframe. This information, crucial for compliance, was updated on January 4, 2024.

2. Detailed Deadlines for Reporting

The deadlines for reporting vary based on your company’s registration date. Companies registered before January 1, 2024, have until January 1, 2025, to comply. Those registered between January 1, 2024, and December 31, 2024, get 90 days post-registration for filing. For registrations from January 1, 2025, onwards, the deadline tightens to 30 days. This timeline, updated on December 1, 2023, is critical for your planning.

3. When to Start Filing?

FinCEN started accepting beneficial ownership information reports from January 1, 2024. This milestone, announced on March 24, 2023, marks the beginning of a new era in corporate transparency.

4. Good News: No Filing Fees!

You'll be pleased to know that filing your beneficial ownership information report with FinCEN is free of charge, a relief for many businesses. This update came through on January 4, 2024.

Reporting is made simple and secure via FinCEN's BOI E-Filing website. The process is streamlined and user-friendly, ensuring your compliance is as hassle-free as possible. This guidance was updated on January 4, 2024.

6. Locating the Reporting Form

To file your report, simply head over to the BOI E-Filing website and select “File BOIR.” This straightforward process, updated on January 4, 2024, is designed to facilitate ease of use.

7. Do You Need Professional Assistance?

While many companies will manage this process independently, FinCEN acknowledges the potential need for professional assistance. Consulting with lawyers or accountants might be beneficial, especially for complex structures. This guidance was issued on November 16, 2023.

8. Who Can File and What’s Needed?

Authorized individuals, whether they are employees, owners, or third-party service providers, can file on behalf of a company. Filers should be ready to provide basic contact information. This procedure, detailed on December 12, 2023, ensures a smooth filing process.

Stay informed and compliant by keeping these critical points in mind. The new reporting requirements mark a significant step toward greater transparency and accountability in the corporate sector.

III. Reporting Company

1. Who Needs to Report?

FinCEN categorizes businesses that need to report beneficial ownership information as "reporting companies." There are two primary types: Domestic and Foreign Reporting Companies. Domestic ones include corporations, LLCs, and other entities formed via state filings in the U.S. Foreign Reporting Companies are those formed under foreign laws but registered to do business in the U.S. However, it's important to note that 23 specific types of entities are exempt from these requirements. This information was issued on September 18, 2023.

2. Exemptions to the Rule

Yes, there are exemptions. The list includes 23 different types of entities such as publicly traded companies, nonprofits, and large operating companies. FinCEN provides a detailed table and checklists in its Small Entity Compliance Guide to help you determine if your company falls under these exemptions. Don't skip this step; reviewing the qualifying criteria is essential. This was also issued on September 18, 2023.

3. Reporting Requirements for Different Entity Types

What about trusts, business trusts, or foundations? Whether they are considered reporting companies depends on how they were created or registered. For example, if a trust requires filing with a secretary of state to be established, it might be a reporting company unless an exemption applies. This nuanced information was made available on November 16, 2023.

4. Trusts and Court Registration

Registering a trust with a court solely to establish jurisdiction over disputes doesn't make it a reporting company. This clarification, issued on November 16, 2023, is vital for trusts navigating these regulations.

5. Does Business Activity or Revenue Matter?

Indeed, it can. An entity's activities and revenue may determine its reporting status. Certain inactive entities or those with significant gross receipts might be exempt. But merely engaging in passive activities or being unprofitable doesn't automatically exempt a company from reporting. This clarification came out on December 12, 2023.

6. Sole Proprietorships in the Mix

Sole proprietorships don't typically fall under the reporting company category unless they were formed or registered in the U.S. by filing specific documents with a state. Simple filings like obtaining an IRS number or a fictitious business name don't make a sole proprietorship a reporting company. This was detailed on December 12, 2023.

Stay informed and ensure your company complies with these important regulations. Understanding these details can safeguard your business from potential legal complexities and maintain transparency in the corporate sector.

IV. Company Applicant

Understanding the Role of a Company Applicant: Is It the Right Choice for You?"

The role of a company applicant in the context of future regulatory requirements remains unclear. Currently, there is limited information available about the specific responsibilities and expectations that will be placed on company applicants by the government. This lack of clarity raises questions about whether assuming this role is advisable and what implications it may have in the long term. Here's what we know so far about the role of a company applicant.

1. Identifying a Company Applicant

From January 1, 2024, onwards, only certain reporting companies need to report their company applicants.

A reporting company must report its company applicants only if it is either a:

  • Domestic reporting company created in the United States on or after January 1, 2024; or

  • Foreign reporting company first registered to do business in the United States on or after January 1, 2024.

Essentially, a company applicant is typically one of two individuals: the person who directly files the document to create or register the company, or, if multiple individuals are involved, the one primarily responsible for directing or controlling the filing. FinCEN's Small Entity Compliance Guide, in Chapter 3.2, offers more insights on identifying these individuals. This guideline was issued on September 18, 2023.

2. Reporting Requirements for Company Applicants

Not every reporting company is required to report company applicants. Only those domestic companies created, or foreign companies registered to do business in the U.S., on or after January 1, 2024, fall under this mandate. Companies established or registered before this date are exempt. FinCEN provides a summary and further details in Chapter 3.1 of its Small Entity Compliance Guide. This information was also made available on September 18, 2023.

3. The Role of Accountants and Lawyers

Interestingly, an accountant or lawyer might be a company applicant, depending on their involvement in the filing process. For instance, a lawyer overseeing the preparation and filing of incorporation documents, or a paralegal who directly files these documents under a lawyer’s direction, can both be considered company applicants. This definition, issued on September 18, 2023, broadens the scope of who might be involved in the company's formation.

4. Can Company Applicants be Removed from Reports?

An important aspect to note is that once a company applicant is reported in the initial BOI report, they cannot be removed, even if their relationship with the reporting company ends. This rule ensures the continuity and integrity of historical information. FinCEN clarified this in the guidelines issued on November 16, 2023.

In summary, the role of a company applicant is a critical component in FinCEN's reporting framework, especially for businesses established or registered from 2024 onwards. Understanding who qualifies as a company applicant and the associated reporting obligations is essential for compliance and maintaining transparency in business operations.

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