New example form and guidance for developing beneficial ownership declarations

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Peter Low · Apr 2021

To help jurisdictions create practical and effective systems for collecting their beneficial ownership (BO) data, Open Ownership (OO) has published a new guide to BO form development. This includes an example form that addresses some of the key challenges implementers face.

Designing good quality forms that ease the collection of accurate data on exactly which individuals ultimately own or control companies is a complicated enterprise. In part, this is because of the inherent challenges involved in representing complex company ownership structures in text fields rather than, for example, as a diagram. Moreover, as forms need to be adapted to local legislation, requirements, and company profiles, it is challenging for implementers to use forms from other jurisdictions as good practice templates.

As a result, it is all too easy for BO declaration forms to contain ambiguities, inconsistencies, under-specified requirements, and other issues that make accurate form completion difficult. Such challenges are compounded by the fact that the laws and regulations mandating the collection of BO information in a given jurisdiction may themselves be insufficiently precise about what information should be included in declarations. These issues may only become evident when countries design or start to use forms to collect BO data. The challenges will be all the greater for small jurisdictions which have limited time and resources to dedicate to the creation of their forms and registers.

A form that is well designed, by contrast, makes it as easy as possible for people to provide accurate and unambiguous information. This, in turn, reduces the number of accidental errors in the data and makes it harder for people involved in illicit transactions to disguise submissions of deliberately false information as mistakes.

OO’s new form template and guide are intended as useful reference materials for people involved in the design and development of BO regulations and data collection forms. Both are built upon the underlying good practices for BO data that are contained within OO’s Beneficial Ownership Data Standard and explained in OO’s Principles for Effective Beneficial Ownership Disclosure.

The example form has even been produced as a spreadsheet so that jurisdictions might develop it as a form prototype. Webforms (and even paper forms) will be of a better quality if they are prototyped and tested repeatedly before being launched. Generally, we recommend use of webforms for final BO declaration forms since they best allow for onward data management and handling.

The example form provides a useful reference point for local form development, but its elements will always need tailoring to fit the requirements, legal environment, and policy choices of each jurisdiction. If you would like assistance with the adaptation of these materials to your context, please contact support@openownership.org to access our technical support for implementers.

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