people taking part in CTA compliance

Understanding the Corporate Transparency Act: A Guide for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

Protea Financial is committed to informing you about significant legislative changes that could impact your business operations. With the assistance of our partners at CMPR, this comprehensive guide explores the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA), enacted as part of the broader Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020. Aimed at preventing money laundering, terrorist financing, and other illicit financial activities, the CTA introduces new reporting requirements for U.S. businesses. Understanding these requirements is crucial for compliance and avoiding severe penalties.

What is the Corporate Transparency Act?

The CTA was designed to enhance the transparency of business ownership to combat financial crimes. It requires certain U.S. businesses, particularly smaller corporations and LLCs, to disclose their beneficial owners to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Who is Affected?

The CTA targets primarily small to medium-sized businesses operating as:

  • Corporations
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
  • Other similar entities

Exemptions include:

  • Publicly traded companies
  • Entities heavily regulated, such as banks and credit unions
  • Larger operating companies with over 20 employees, over $5 million in sales, and a physical office in the U.S.

For a more detailed list of exemptions and their criteria here.

Understanding the Corporate Transparency Act

Key Requirements of the CTA

  1. Reporting Beneficial Ownership: Businesses must report any individuals who own 25% or more of the company’s equity or who have significant responsibility to control, manage, or direct the company. This includes C-suite executives who might not hold significant equity but are crucial in day-to-day decision-making and strategic direction.
  2. Identifying Company Applicants: The CTA also mandates that “company applicants”—those individuals who directed the formation of a company or who played a significant role in the filing of incorporation documents—must report their information to FinCEN. This requirement aims to increase transparency around the initial setup of the entity, capturing the details of those who might not be ongoing operators but who were instrumental in creating the corporate structure.
  3. Maintaining Accuracy: It is imperative that businesses keep their reported information up to date. Any changes in ownership, the roles of significant individuals, or company details must be reported within a specified timeframe to ensure all data remains current.

Steps to Compliance

Ensuring compliance with the CTA involves several critical steps:

  1. Identify Beneficial Owners: Start by identifying who in your organization meets the criteria for a beneficial owner. This includes both equity stakes and control or influence over business operations.
  2. Gather Information: Collect necessary personal information for each beneficial owner, such as name, address, date of birth, and an identifying number from documents like passports or driver’s licenses.
  3. File with FinCEN: Submit the collected information to FinCEN. The specifics of filing will depend on whether your business is newly established or existing.
  4. Update as Necessary: Regularly review and update your submissions to reflect any ownership or company details changes.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Non-compliance can result in severe penalties, including fines and potential criminal charges. Therefore, it is crucial for businesses to comply initially and maintain ongoing accuracy in their submitted information.

Case Studies and Examples

Example 1: A small LLC in Texas with three partners owning an equal part of the company must report all partners as beneficial owners since each holds more than 25% of the company.

Example 2: A tech startup in California with a single founder who owns 100% of the company but has appointed a CEO with significant management responsibilities must report both the founder and the CEO as beneficial owners.

workers considering term agreement

FAQs on the Corporate Transparency Act

Q1: What if my business structure changes? 

A: You must report any changes in your business structure or beneficial ownership to FinCEN within 30 days of the change.

Q2: Are there any tools to help with compliance? 

A: Yes, third-party services like CSC can assist in maintaining and filing your compliance documents accurately and on time.

Q3: How often do I need to update my information with FinCEN?

A: Updates must be made whenever there are changes in beneficial ownership or company details.

Resources for Help

Navigating the CTA’s requirements can be challenging. We recommend consulting with legal counsel to ensure compliance. Services like CSC can also help file and maintain records accurately and on time.

The Corporate Transparency Act represents significant legislation designed to enhance business transparency and prevent illegal activities. While the requirements may seem daunting, understanding and compliance are essential for legal and operational security. If you have questions