The Open Ownership Principles — Sufficient detail

Beneficial ownership declarations should collect sufficient detail to allow users to understand and use the data

  • Information should be collected about:
    • the beneficial owner;
    • the declaring company; and
    • the means through which ownership or control is held.
  • Information should be collected in online forms with clear guidance that facilitates compliance.
  • Sufficient information should be collected to be able to unambiguously identify people, entities, and arrangements, using clear identifiers for natural persons, and legal entities and arrangements.
  • Information collected should be limited to what is necessary to achieve the policy objective.
  • Where BO is held indirectly through multiple legal entities or legal arrangements, or ownership or control are exerted formally or informally through another natural person, sufficient information should be collected to understand full ownership chains.
  • Absolute values, rather than ranges, should be used to define a beneficial owner’s ownership or control.
  • Data about any state ownership or control (domestic or foreign) should be collected in a standardised way.

Collecting key fields of data about the beneficial owner and the declaring company enables users to accurately interpret the data and determine which individuals and companies the declaration refers to. Collecting and publishing the means through which ownership or control is held further adds to the utility of the data by enabling users to understand how BO is operating. This should be done by collecting data through online forms with clear guidance.

Having clear identifiers – e.g. registration numbers for companies and taxpayer numbers for people – makes it easier to match declarations about the same people or companies and distinguish different people with the same name or similar details. This also allows users to link data with other datasets. Linking data transnationally is essential to realising its full potential to expose networks of illicit financial flows and support robust and efficient due diligence in the global economy. Being able to match and disambiguate is important; for instance, when entities emulate the names of respectable companies in order to obfuscate ownership in due diligence processes. The minimum amount of data to achieve this should be collected, but jurisdictions should limit collection to what is strictly necessary to achieve their policy aims, in order to limit privacy concerns.

Where ownership or control is held indirectly through multiple entities or through legal arrangements such as trusts, full visibility of ownership chains is important for understanding how ownership and control are exercised. Rather than ranges, collecting absolute values when disclosing the percentage of ownership or control will assist users in understanding how ownership or control is held. This is particularly important when ownership or control is held indirectly.

Although state ownership may not meet the definition of BO, it represents a substantial amount of investment in large firms in strategic sectors. Therefore, governments should extend BO disclosure requirements to explicitly require the disclosure of stakes held by the state, directly or indirectly, and distinguish state ownership from private ownership by collecting information in a consistent and defined format.

Implementation Guide

This OO Principle is particularly relevant in the following aspects of implementation. These correspond to steps in our Implementation Guide.


Example Paper Forms for Collecting Beneficial Ownership Data
Guidance · Open Ownership · Jun 2019

This document provides example forms to guide officials tasked with developing paper forms to collect beneficial ownership information.

Beneficial ownership transparency and listed companies
Guidance · Jack Lord and Kadie Armstrong · Sep 2020

This technical note supports implementers of national beneficial ownership registers to reduce risks associated with exemptions from disclosure that exist for listed companies. It is not intended as an endorsement of the policy of exempting listed companies from beneficial ownership disclosure. Rather, the aim is to create actionable advice that can reduce the impact of policy loopholes and produce high quality data about listed companies in contexts where exemptions remain a reality.

Example Beneficial ownership declaration form
Guidance · Open Ownership · Mar 2021

OO’s example disclosure form was made to demonstrate good practice in form design for collecting structured BO data in line with the Open Ownership Principles (OO Principles).

Beneficial ownership declaration forms: Guide for regulators and designers
Guidance · Open Ownership · Mar 2021

This guide introduces a number of considerations for form development, and presents a worked example of a form that addresses these issues.

Beneficial ownership transparency of trusts
Briefings · Ramandeep Kaur Chhina · Jul 2021

This policy briefing analyses the existing policy and regulatory framework on the BOT of trusts at an international level, and highlights research and policy recommendations on the issue whilst identifying the gaps for further research. The aim is to help policymakers and those implementing or supporting BOT to think through various issues and approaches toward ensuring the BOT of trusts, as well as to outline considerations for operationalisation by identifying emerging best practice in legal and policy reforms.