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How to Submit BOIR (Beneficial Ownership Information Report)?

In recent years, the United States government has intensified its efforts to combat financial crimes like money laundering, tax evasion, and terrorism financing. A key strategy in this endeavor involves enhancing transparency around the ownership structures of business entities operating within the country. This led to the enactment of the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) in 2021, which introduced a significant new reporting requirement – the Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) Report, commonly known as the BOIR.

Understanding the BOIR Mandate

The BOIR is a crucial document that compels specific companies to disclose details about the individuals who genuinely own or control them. By shedding light on these “beneficial owners,” the legislation aims to prevent bad actors from exploiting anonymous shell companies to facilitate illicit activities. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau under the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is tasked with collecting and maintaining this ownership information.

Why is the BOIR Important?

The BOIR serves several critical purposes:

  1. Deterring Financial Crimes: By requiring businesses to unveil their beneficial owners, the BOIR makes it harder for criminals to conceal their identities behind complex corporate structures, thereby curbing opportunities for money laundering, terrorism financing, and other financial misdeeds.
  2. Enhancing National Security: Increased transparency around business ownership empowers authorities to identify potential threats and ensure that U.S. companies are not unknowingly supporting hostile actors or sanctioned entities.
  3. Protecting Consumers: Consumers can make more informed decisions when they have access to information about the individuals truly controlling the companies they interact with, enabling them to avoid businesses with questionable or suspicious ownership arrangements.

Who Must File the BOIR?

The BOIR filing requirement applies to a broad spectrum of business entities, including corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), limited partnerships, and similar structures created or registered to operate in any U.S. state, territory, or the District of Columbia. However, certain types of businesses are exempt from this obligation, such as publicly traded companies, banks, credit unions, and specific investment vehicles that are already subject to stringent reporting requirements.

Defining Key Roles and Responsibilities

To understand the BOIR’s scope, it’s essential to grasp the definitions of two critical roles: “beneficial owners” and “company applicants.”

Beneficial Owners

A beneficial owner is any individual who, directly or indirectly, meets at least one of the following criteria:

  1. Exercises Substantial Control: This includes individuals who serve as senior officers (e.g., president, CEO, COO, CFO), have authority over the appointment or removal of senior officers or board members, or possess substantial influence over the company’s significant decisions.
  2. Owns or Controls 25% or More: Individuals who own or control at least 25% of the company’s ownership interests, whether through direct or indirect means.

It’s important to note that a reporting company can have multiple beneficial owners, and FinCEN expects every entity to identify and report at least one individual in this role.

Company Applicants

For businesses formed or registered on or after January 1, 2024, the BOIR also requires reporting information about “company applicants.” These are the individuals directly involved in filing the documents that created or registered the company:

  • The person who physically or electronically submitted the formation or registration documents to the relevant state authority (e.g., the Secretary of State’s office).
  • If multiple individuals were involved in the filing process, the person was primarily responsible for directing or controlling the submission.

Filing Deadlines and Penalties

The timeline for submitting the initial BOIR depends on when the company was established or registered:

  • Existing Companies (Formed Before January 1, 2024): These entities have a grace period and must file their initial BOIR by January 1, 2025.
  • New Companies (Formed or Registered on or After January 1, 2024, and Before January 1, 2025): These companies must submit their initial BOIR within 90 calendar days of receiving actual or public notice that their creation or registration is effective.
  • Future Companies (Formed or Registered on or After January 1, 2025): These entities must file their initial BOIR within 30 calendar days of receiving actual or public notice of their creation or registration.

Failure to comply with the BOIR reporting requirements can result in severe penalties. Non-compliant companies, as well as their senior officers and individuals responsible for the non-compliance, may face the following consequences:

  • Civil Penalties: A maximum fine of $500 per day, per violation.
  • Criminal Penalties: Imprisonment for up to two years, a fine of up to $10,000, or a combination of both.

However, there is a safe harbor provision that allows individuals or entities to voluntarily and promptly correct a false BOIR within 90 days of its submission without facing penalties.

Information Required for the BOIR

When filing the BOIR, reporting companies must provide specific details about themselves, their beneficial owners, and (if applicable) their company applicants. Let’s break down the information required in each category:

Reporting Company Information

For the reporting company itself, the following details must be provided:

  • Legal name and any trade names or “doing business as” (DBA) names
  • Current street address of the principal place of business (or the address from which the business is conducted in the U.S. for foreign companies)
  • Jurisdiction of formation or registration (e.g., state, territory, or foreign country)
  • Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) or foreign tax identification number
  • Filing status (initial report, correction, or update)

Beneficial Owner Information

For each beneficial owner, the BOIR requires the following information:

  • Full legal name
  • Date of birth
  • Current residential street address (no P.O. boxes)
  • A unique identifying number from an acceptable identification document, such as:
    • A non-expired U.S. passport or driver’s license
    • A non-expired identification document issued by a U.S. state, local government, or Native American tribe
    • For individuals without the above, a non-expired passport issued by a foreign government
  • Name of the issuing jurisdiction for the identification document
  • An image or copy of the identification document used

If a beneficial owner is a minor child, their parent or legal guardian must provide the required information on their behalf.

Company Applicant Information (if applicable)

For companies formed or registered on or after January 1, 2024, the BOIR must include the following details for each company applicant:

  • Full legal name
  • Date of birth
  • Current residential street address (no P.O. boxes)
  • A unique identifying number from an acceptable identification document (same as for beneficial owners)
  • Name of the issuing jurisdiction for the identification document
  • An image or copy of the identification document used

Filing Methods and Submission Process

FinCEN has established an electronic filing system, the BOI E-Filing System, to streamline the BOIR submission process. Reporting companies have two options for preparing and submitting their reports:

Online BOIR

This method allows companies to complete and submit the BOIR entirely online through the FinCEN website. No need to download or upload any documents – the entire process can be completed within the secure online portal.

PDF BOIR

For those who prefer a paper trail or want to prepare the report offline, FinCEN offers the option to download a PDF version of the BOIR. Companies can fill out the PDF form at their convenience, save their progress, and then upload the completed document to the BOI E-Filing System for submission.

Regardless of the chosen method, the submission process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Access the BOI E-Filing System through the FinCEN website.
  2. Gather the required information for the reporting company, beneficial owners, and (if applicable) company applicants.
  3. Complete the BOIR form, either online or using the PDF version.
  4. Follow the prompts on the FinCEN website to submit the completed BOIR.

It’s worth noting that, as of now, there are no filing fees associated with submitting a BOIR. However, it’s always advisable to consult the FinCEN website or seek guidance from a legal or tax professional to ensure compliance with the latest regulations and procedures, especially if filing from abroad.

Maintaining Accurate and Up-to-Date Information

The BOIR is not a one-time filing requirement. Reporting companies have an ongoing obligation to ensure that the beneficial ownership information on record with FinCEN remains accurate and up-to-date. If any changes occur, such as new beneficial owners, changes in ownership percentages, or updates to personal information (e.g., addresses), the company must submit a corrected or updated BOIR within 30 calendar days of the change.

To file a corrected or updated report, companies can follow a similar process to the initial filing, but they will need to indicate that they are submitting a correction or update rather than an initial report.

Confidentiality and Information Sharing

While the BOI reports themselves are not publicly available, FinCEN is authorized to share the collected information with specific entities under certain circumstances:

  • Federal law enforcement agencies and other authorized government bodies can access BOI data for legitimate investigative purposes.
  • Non-U.S. law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, or judges may obtain BOI information through official requests made by U.S. federal law enforcement agencies.
  • Financial institutions and their regulators can access BOI data with the consent of the reporting company, as part of their “know your customer” (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) compliance efforts.

FinCEN has implemented robust security measures to protect the confidentiality of the BOI reports and ensure that the information is only accessed and used for authorized purposes.

Exemptions and Special Considerations

While the BOIR requirement is broad, there are certain exemptions and special considerations to be aware of:

Exempt Entities

The CTA outlines 23 categories of exempt entities that are not required to file a BOIR. These include:

  • Large operating companies with more than $5 million in gross receipts and a physical operating presence in the U.S.
  • Pooled investment vehicles (e.g., hedge funds, private equity funds)
  • Certain tax-exempt entities, such as charitable organizations and non-profit organizations
  • Banks, credit unions, and other regulated financial institutions

It’s important to consult with legal or tax professionals to determine if your business qualifies for an exemption and to understand the specific criteria and documentation requirements.

Foreign Reporting Companies

Foreign companies that are registered to conduct business in the United States have slightly different reporting requirements. Instead of providing the address of their principal place of business abroad, they must provide the physical street address of their U.S. operations or the address from which they conduct business in the U.S.

Additionally, foreign reporting companies must provide their foreign tax identification number (if they have one) and the name of the issuing jurisdiction, along with any U.S. tax identification number they may have obtained.

Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships

The BOIR requirement generally applies to businesses registered as separate legal entities, such as corporations and LLCs. However, sole proprietorships and partnerships may also need to file a BOIR under certain circumstances, such as if they formally register to conduct business in the U.S. as a foreign entity.

It’s crucial to consult with legal or tax professionals to determine the specific reporting obligations for your business structure and circumstances.

Conclusion: Embracing Transparency and Compliance

The Beneficial Ownership Information Report (BOIR) represents a significant step towards enhancing transparency and combating financial crimes in the United States. By requiring businesses to disclose their beneficial owners, the CTA aims to deter illicit activities, protect national security, and empower consumers to make informed decisions.

While the BOIR filing process may seem daunting, particularly for small businesses or those operating internationally, it is essential to approach this new requirement with diligence and a commitment to compliance. Failure to do so can result in severe penalties, including substantial fines and even criminal charges.

By understanding the nuances of the BOIR mandate, gathering the necessary information, and adhering to the prescribed filing deadlines and procedures, businesses can navigate this new landscape with confidence and contribute to a more transparent and secure economic environment.

As with any legal or regulatory requirement, it is advisable to seek guidance from qualified professionals, such as attorneys or tax advisors, to ensure full compliance and avoid any potential pitfalls. By embracing transparency and fulfilling their reporting obligations, businesses can not only mitigate risks but also demonstrate their commitment to ethical practices and responsible corporate citizenship.

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