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What you need to know about the Corporate Transparency Act

On Behalf of | Apr 6, 2023 | Business Law

The federal government is changing the way we launch new businesses. Acting under the belief that too many criminals are using anonymous shell companies as a mask, Congress adopted the Corporate Transparency Act (the “CTA”). The CTA requires most businesses to report and update the personal information of those individuals who own or control the entity to the Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”). FinCEN filing will confidentially inform various federal agencies and (under limited circumstances) state agencies as to who owns and controls the entity.

The promulgated regulations took effect on January 1, 2024.

For a small business owner, this new obligation is likely to require between one and three hours of a professional’s time. The burden will be substantially greater for a real estate portfolio, which potentially controls hundreds of LLCs.

Congress determined that this burden is worthwhile, in order to combat money laundering, organized crime, and foreign governments that cloak their financial transactions through a web of shell companies. Perhaps the greatest risk is to an owner/manager who is not paying attention to CTA and its regulations. That person will face severe penalties ($10,000 fine and up to 2 years in prison) for noncompliance.

Now that the regulations are final, here is what you need to know about the CTA:

Key Concepts

  • What is a “reporting company” – This determines what entities must take
  • What is a “beneficial owner” – This determines whose personal information will be submitted to FinCEN.

What is a “reporting company”

  • In general – Any entity that is formed by a filing with a Secretary of State, and certain foreign entities
  • Exceptions – There are a lot of exceptions, and one should take the time to read them at 31 USC 5336(a)(11)(b). Here are the most noteworthy exceptions:
    • Entities that are not created by a filing with a Secretary of State – General partnerships and trusts fall into this (However, when a trust is an owner, its beneficiaries, trustee and/or trust advisor may be considered beneficial owners.)
    • Publicly traded companies
    • Bona fide operating companies – This applies if you can establish these three facts: (1) you have more than 20 employees, (2) you had more than $5MM in gross receipts in the previous taxable year, and (3) you have a physical office in the United States.
    • Dormant entities – This applies if the entity is not engaged in active business, is not owned by any foreign person, holds no assets, and has not in the past 12 months either had a change in ownership or a transfer of funds exceeding $1,000.
    • 501(c)(3) nonprofits

Who is a “beneficial owner”?

  • Someone who either owns 25% of the entity or exercises “substantial control” of the entity
    • Ownership:
      • Defined as broadly as possible, including convertible debt, profits interests, options, and joint venture
      • Where the regulations don’t give an answer with reasonable certainty, then any person who holds 25% or more of any class or type of interest is a beneficial
    • Substantial control – The regulations contain many different pathways:
      • Senior officers, and anyone who has authority to appoint a senior officer or a majority of the board
      • Someone who directs major decisions
      • A holder of majority of voting rights
      • Any other contract, arrangement, understanding, relationship, or otherwise
      • Excludes minor children, nominees, employees acting solely as an employee, and creditors

What’s in the report?

  • Information about the entity
    • Company name, plus any DBAs
    • Company address
    • Tax identification (This may incentivize disregarded entities to obtain EINs.)
    • State of Formation
  • Information about each beneficial owner
    • Name, date of birth and address
    • An image of either the beneficial owner’s passport, driver’s license, or state-issued ID card
    • If a beneficial owner itself is exempt, then only the beneficial owner’s name is required

When is the report due?

  • If formed before 1/1/24 – Report due no later than 12/31/24.
  • If formed between 1/1/24 and 12/31/24 – Report due within 90 days after the filing of new entity is effective with the Secretary of State. (Each Secretary of State will be asked to remind filers of the CTA responsibilities.)
  • If formed on or after 1/1/25 – Report due within 30 days after the filing of the new entity is effective with the Secretary of State.
  • If entity loses its exemption after 1/1/24 – Report due within 30 days of loss of exemption.
  • If information within report changes – Updated report due within 30 days of the change.
  • If entity learns of an inaccurate report – Correct report due within 30 calendar days after the entity becomes aware or has reason to know of the inaccuracy.

Who can see the report?

  • Federal agencies engaged in national security, intelligence, or law enforcement activity, for furtherance of such activities
  • The IRS
  • State agencies, so long as the request is coupled with a court order
  • This author believes that parties to business transactions (i.e., a lender for a commercial loan) will request voluntary production of these reports to confirm authority and ownership

What are the penalties?

  •  Penalties for failure to file, or filing a false report
    • $500 per day civil penalty
    • Fines up to $10,000
    • Up to two years in prison
  • Safe harbor – If you correct an innocent mistake on a filed report, within 90 days of the original filing, you are exempt from civil and criminal

What can I do now?

  • Make a list of all entities that you control or This will not necessarily match your tax return.
  • Connect with your lawyer to get this done — and remember to comply with CTA on future-created entities.
  • Dissolve or merge any entities that are not being It’s a hassle, but much cheaper than a $10,000 fine.
  • Consider Series LLC structure (learn more on Series LLCs here), which is considered as “one” entity, albeit with the benefit of liability protection among various businesses/assets.

Attorney Michael R. Rasor assists business owners concerning formation of new entities and compliance with applicable laws. 























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