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Date of publication: October 2016

There are certain procedures to be followed when engaging an Accountant or Solicitor for the first time in the UK.  These are designed to combat international money laundering and are a requirement of each profession’s respective regulator.

This is primarily achieved through checking company incorporation documents and personal ID documents (e.g. passport) and documents showing current address (e.g. driver’s licence / utility bills) of individuals who own and control companies.

Your Accountant/Solicitor will need to see a group structure diagram for the whole corporate group in order to determine the exact requirements.

Broadly, for private companies we will need to see the company’s incorporation documents and ID documents for key directors as well as senior management if not also directors.  We also need ID documents for, anyone owning more than 25% of the company including those that own more than 25% of the ultimate parent company (i.e. beneficial owners).  Any intermediary companies also need to be verified.

Where you have a corporate shareholder we will also need to have a copy of the incorporation documents of the company, and the identity documents for any shareholders holding 25% or more of the company.

Where you have a trust as a shareholder you will need to provide the Trust Deed and ID documents for the Trustees.  We also need this information if the Trust is one of the ultimate beneficial owners.

Acceptable Types of Documentation

Private Company

  • Incorporation Certificate
  • Articles of Association

Individuals

  • Passport
  • Driver’s licence
  • Utility bill (not mobile phone) less than 3 months old, showing current address and in the individual’s name.

Note: Where a photo card driver’s licence has the individual’s current address, this is the only form of ID required for a particular individual.

Form of Documents

Ideally, your Accountant/Solicitor will need to see originals of these documents, and with personal ID, will need to see the person to whom the document relates.

Where this is not possible, your Solicitor/Accountant will accept an original certified copy.
In the case of certified copies these need to be certified by an Accountant, Solicitor or Notary as being a true likeness of both the original document and, in the case of photo identification, the individual concerned.

We would recommend when certifying documents that you get several copies certified at one time, so you can provide them to the relevant parties as required.

Opening a Bank Account

When you go to open a bank account for the UK Company the bank will normally require exactly the same set of documents, although each bank may have a particular form of wording needed where documents are being certified.  They may also request other documents. It is recommended you speak to the bank first, so you can deal with all the certified ID documents in one go.

Please be aware that if you have trusts or offshore entities, and/or have unusual company structures, every entity will be required to be identified and may attract closer scrutiny as this can be deemed a higher risk. This can slow the process down significantly, especially when trying to open a bank account.

We always recommend that you initially keep the simplest structure possible when first opening a bank account. Have one director, one shareholder preferably the same person, with one £1 share. This means only one person will be required to provide ID documents. Do not place a large amount on deposit, initially, as this will also cause further checks to be made.

Once the bank account is open you can then add further shareholders and / or directors as needed. The bank and any other professional advisors are required to subsequently check these additional individuals under money laundering regulations, but you will have an open bank account while they do this.

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Disclaimer: This note does not contain a full statement of the law and it does not constitute legal advice. Please seek legal advice if you have any questions about the information set out above.

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