What to Look out for in the Amendment to the Austrian Economic Ownership Register Act

 

 

Since the adoption of the Economic Ownership Register Act (“WiEReg”) in 2018, Austrian companies and other legal entities must notify their beneficial owners to the WE-Register. The fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, however, is already entering the next round. On 11 July 2019, the Austrian legislator has introduced a comprehensive package of measures to implement the 5th EU Money Laundering Directive (Directive (EU) 2018/843) which also envisages numerous changes to the law (EU Financial Adjustment Act 2019, BGBl I No. 62/2019).

 

An Overview of the Most Important Changes

 

  • Annual reporting requirement: At present, it is sufficient for companies to constantly review their reported data internally. A new notification to the register is only required if the ownership or control structure changes.

In the future, companies will be obliged to report once a year – even if their data remain unchanged. These “confirmation notifications” are intended to increase the data quality of the register. However, they also entail considerable additional expenditure.

 

  • Public insight: According to the current legal situation, only authorities and certain groups of persons (lawyers, notaries, public accountants, etc.) have and access and insight into the WE-Register.

In the future, every person would be able request a public register extract and obtain information about the beneficial owners of a company.

 

  • Compliance packages: Anyone who often deals with major banking matters or has to deal with corporate financing or real estate transactions knows that querying, collecting and providing documents for the required money laundering checks is always a very time-consuming process. The new compliance packages seek to remedy this situation.

In the future, companies will have the option of submitting to the WE-Registry those documents, data and information that they have already collected for the purpose of auditing their beneficial owners. They can then be retrieved electronically and used for further money-laundering checks.

 

Start now to remedy inadequate reporting in good time

The WiEReG amendment partly comes into force on 10 January 2020. Companies should therefore ensure, well in advance, that their internal processes are adapted to the new reporting obligations.

It is high time to remedy deficient reporting procedures. The initial “grace period” in which the authority refrained from issuing fines is now over!

Proper expertise is required to set things on a smooth course. The BTP Compliance Team is happy to help!