Around the world, paywalls in offshore jurisdictions add another layer of opacity to doing research. This week we take a look at the Isle of Man, a British Crown Dependency nestled in the Irish Sea.
The Isle of Man can slip under the radar for those not based in the United Kingdom and for the layperson there is little of note in this Crown dependency. However, it is a favourite for offshore companies, especially those owned by UK residents or owning assets in the UK.
There are over 200 different forms available in the Isle of Man Registry. To make it easier to know what you might be buying, our research team decided to undertake some in-depth research, analysing over 95 of these forms pertaining to the Isle of Man 1931 Companies Act and 2006 Companies Act. The results show you a sample of what could potentially be found on the registry.
|Type of information||1931 Act (Private Company)||1931 Act (Public Company)||2006 Companies Act|
|Directors of a company||Paid||Paid||Paid|
|Shareholders of a company||Paid||Paid||Not available|
|Search by director||Not available||Not available||Not available|
|Notes||Should have at least 2 directors, none of which can be legal persons.||Should have at least 2 directors, none of which can be legal persons.||Should have at least 1 director and can be a legal person. A legal person must hold a license granted by the Financial Services Committee.|
Currently, if you start a company in the Isle of Man, it is possible to choose whether to register it as a company under the 1931 Companies Act or the 2006 Companies Act. The former is seen to be more rigorous in its form filling and information disclosure and the latter is much more forgiving on this front. Looking at the data table above, it can be seen that 1931 companies require more information on their forms than 2006 companies. This makes sense as the 2006 Company Act was enacted to allow a new form of corporate vehicle called the New Manx Vehicle, this act purports to provide a streamlined process for setting up and running companies. It is clear here that a streamlined process can also mean fewer reporting requirements.
This can be seen in both our condensed and comprehensive data tables, which show that information on key people in a registered company is more readily available for 1931 Companies.
Using the Registry
Searching the Isle of Man registry is free and the initial results page includes details such as business name, registration number and business status.
Once you click through to retrieve further details, you get similar details but a business address is also provided. This company was picked at random, that they appear here is in no way significant.
This page also lists the number of filings that are available for purchase for this company. At the time of writing, there is a 3 week lag between documents being filed and those documents being made available for purchase. Filed documents can be purchased after registering. The registration process is straightforward and only requires an e-mail address.
Helpfully, the site states which documents are available for purchase so unlike the Cayman Registry, you are not blindly buying without knowing what you are paying for. It is also possible to see what each form asks as blank forms can be downloaded. The list of forms can be found here.
The document that we have purchased below is the BN1 form, the form that an individual uses to register a company.
Apart from the address of the individual, there is little here that we did not know from the free company search.
In conclusion the Isle of Man registry is straightforward. It allows you to search the registry for free and returns a reasonable amount of information. Moreover, it tells you which filings are available for purchase and using our table you can easily see what you are getting for your £2. This is not to say that the Isle of Man does not suffer from opacity, the new 2006 Company Act now requires fewer reporting details. This act coupled with a 0% corporate tax, also introduced in 2006, means that the Isle of Man could well become a haven for those wishing to engage in opaque business practices.
Update: In September 2015, the Isle of Man government launched a new online service for its corporate registry. Besides a cleaner and more modern look, there is no immediate change to the data provided.