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Shell companies: Govt formulates new rules to weed out firms

Rishi Ranjan Kala
shell companies, tax evation, ministry of corporate affairs

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has made it obligatory for companies incorporated before December 2017 to file a new form to disclose their particulars, including a fully functional registered office. Analysts said the new rule (25A) will not only strengthen corporate governance, but will also help weed out shell companies.

The concept of ACTIVE (Active Company Tagging Identities and Verification) to tag the company’s identity and its registered office is one feature under the new rule. Firms are required to file particulars in e-Form ACTIVE on or before April 25, 2019.

Companies, which have been struck off or are under the process of being stricken off or are under liquidation or dissolved, do not have to file the new form. Besides, any company that has not filed its financial statements or annual returns with the Registrar of Companies also cannot file this form. A senior government official said, There have been instances where several companies were found to be operating from a single registered address or where the registered office showed no signs of a company operating. This will help government identify a company’s registered office. The MCA can also conduct random checks to ascertain whether the office exists and is operational.

Nangia Advisors (Andersen Global) director Sandeep Jhunjhunwala said such steps strengthen the regulatory architecture and cleanses the system of unproductive shell companies. Although the changes in Companies Act 2013 burdens Indian corporations with newer compliances, in the long run, it will give the required impetus for desired growth of the economy.

Now with the anticipated geo-tagging rules being notified for all companies incorporated before December 31, 2017, the requirement of putting the data of exact location such as latitude & longitude, photographs, etc of the registered office would help identify cases where one building houses multiple shell companies, he said.

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In the last three-four years, a number of legislative amendments and regulatory measures have targeted shell companies, benami holdings, black money transactions and various means of tax evasion. Demonetisation and the subsequent digitisation, mandatory dematerialisation of shares and other reforms are surely opportunities to move towards a policy superstructure that is truly regulatory in nature, Jhunjhunwala explained.