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Corporate Transparency Act: Implications for Business Startups

November 27, 2023

Congress passed the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) in January 2021 to provide law enforcement agencies with further tools to combat financial crime and fraud. The CTA requires certain legal entities (each, a “reporting company”) to report, if no exemption is available, specific information about themselves, certain of their individual owners and managers, and certain individuals involved in their formation to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the U.S. Department of Treasury. The beneficial ownership information (BOI) reporting requirements of the CTA are set to take effect on January 1, 2024. Those who disregard the CTA may be subject to civil and criminal penalties.

A recent advisory explaining the CTA reporting requirements in further detail may be found here.

While the CTA includes 23 enumerated exemptions for reporting companies, newly formed businesses (Startups) may not qualify for an exemption before the date on which an initial BOI report is due to FinCEN. As a result, Startups (particularly those created on or after January 1, 2024) and their founders and investors, must be prepared to comply promptly with the CTA’s reporting requirements.

As an example, businesses may want to pursue the large operating company exemption under the CTA. However, among other conditions, a company must have filed a federal income tax or information return for the previous year demonstrating more than $5 million in gross receipts or sales. By definition, a newly formed business will not have filed a federal income tax or information return for the previous year. If no other exemption is readily available, such a Startup will need to file an initial BOI report, subject to ongoing monitoring as to whether it subsequently qualifies for an exemption or any reported BOI changes or needs to be corrected, in either case triggering an obligation to file an updated BOI report within 30 days of the applicable event.

Startups also should be mindful that the large operating company exemption requires the entity to (i) directly employ more than 20 full time employees in the U.S. and (ii) have an operating presence at a physical office within the U.S. that is distinct from the place of business of any other unaffiliated entity. Importantly, this means that a mere “holding company” (an entity that issues ownership interests and holds one or more operating subsidiaries but does not itself satisfy the other conditions of this exemption) will not qualify. Startups may want to consider these aspects of the large operating company exemption during the pre-formation phase of their business.

Fundraising often requires Startups to satisfy competing demands among groups of investors, which can lead to relatively complex capitalization tables and unique arrangements regarding management and control. These features may cause BOI reporting for Startups to be more complicated than reporting for other small and closely held businesses. Founders, investors, and potential investors should familiarize themselves with the CTA’s reporting requirements and formulate a plan to facilitate compliance, including with respect to the collection, storage and updating of BOI.

By ensuring all stakeholders understand the BOI reporting requirements and are prepared to comply, your Startup can avoid conflicts with current and potential investors and ensure that it collects the information that it needs to provide a complete and timely BOI report.

Varnum’s Corporate Transparency Act Taskforce of attorneys and other professionals can assist you. Contact your Varnum attorney or any member of Varnum’s CTA Taskforce to learn more.

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