If you own a small business or family office, you could soon be required to report ownership details to the federal government—or face stiff penalties and possible jail time. Here's what you need to know.
What is it?
The Corporate Transparency Act (CTA), which goes into effect on January 1, 2024, requires otherwise unregulated companies to report information about "beneficial owners"—those who own at least 25% of or exercise substantial control over the reporting company—to the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Failure to comply could result in fines of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to two years.
Why target small businesses?
The law attempts to close a loophole in corporate regulations that enables criminals to hide their identities using shell companies. However, the legislation may affect almost every small business in the U.S., including family offices, independent contractors, and the limited liability companies (LLCs) commonly used by mom-and-pop shop owners.
"Family LLCs are often used to transfer ownership of a business from one generation to the next in a tax-efficient way," says Austin Jarvis, director of estate, trust, and high-net-worth tax at the Schwab Center for Financial Research. "By retaining a small interest, the original owner can claim certain discounts that reduce the value of the transfer for tax purposes. The CTA doesn't prohibit this type of transaction, but new IRS rules will require these entities to report ownership information."
What are the requirements?
Entities created on or after January 1, 2024, must report beneficial owner information to the FinCEN website within 30 calendar days of creation. Existing entities have until January 1, 2025, to comply with the statute, unless they undergo ownership changes—such as those triggered by a sale or minor children reaching the age of majority—in which case they have 30 days from the date of change.
The law exempts 23 types of businesses, including accounting firms, banks, charitable entities, and large operating companies that meet certain requirements.
"If you're a business owner, familiarize yourself with the CTA's reporting requirements and meet with your accountant or attorney to discuss whether the new law affects you," Austin advises. "Don't wait for the government to come knocking—the stakes are just too high."
Learn more about the CTA's beneficial owner requirements, including which types of entities may be affected.
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