Island tax haven firms own 23,000 UK properties

Virgin Gorda inside British Virgin Islands of the Carribean.Image copyright
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The British Virgin Islands are home to 11,700 firms owning UK property

A quarter of property in England as well as Wales owned by overseas firms is usually held by entities registered inside British Virgin Islands, BBC analysis has found.

The Caribbean archipelago is usually the official home of companies of which own 23,000 properties – more than any various other country.

They are owned by 11,700 firms registered inside overseas territory.

The finding emerged by BBC analysis conducted of Land Registry data on overseas property ownership.

The research found there are around 97,000 properties in England as well as Wales held by overseas firms, as of January 2018.

the idea adds to concerns of which companies registered in British-controlled tax havens have been used to avoid tax.


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Map built by Carto. If you can’t see the map, please click here to open the same story on the BBC News website.

Note: Property locations are approximate based on the centre point of the postcode they fall into. As such they have been removed when the map is usually zoomed to the most detailed levels. Ownership information like the company name as well as country refer to the ultimate owner of the property, not necessarily the person or company of which may rent or occupy the property.


Close behind the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which incorporates a population of just 30,0, are Jersey, Guernsey as well as the Isle of Man.

Of the properties owned by overseas companies in England as well as Wales, two thirds are registered to firms inside British Virgin Islands, Jersey, Guernsey as well as the Isle of Man.

Many foreign UK property owners are also officially headquartered in Hong Kong, Panama as well as Ireland.

The analysis provides a brand-new picture of ownership of property by overseas companies in England as well as Wales following a decision last November to make the database public as well as free to access.

the idea found:

  • Close to half (44%) of all properties owned by overseas companies in England as well as Wales are located in London
  • More than one in ten (11,500) properties owned by overseas companies in England as well as Wales are located inside City of Westminster
  • More than 6,000 properties owned by foreign companies are inside London borough of Kensington as well as Chelsea.

The government of the British Virgin Islands said the idea was incorrect to label the country as a tax haven.

the idea said of which there were many practical reasons why UK properties might be owned by companies incorporated inside BVI.

the idea argued of which BVI companies can bring together multiple investors as well as owners, which is usually useful for big commercial property deals of which have investors in more than one country.

The BVI also said of which the idea shared “necessary information” including ownership details with relevant authorities.

Among those entries inside database of which disclosed a cost, the most expensive was the former headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, brand-new Scotland Yard, at 8-10 Broadway.

The site was purchased by the Abu Dhabi Financial Group in 2014 for £370m by the Mayor of London’s office. although the idea is usually officially owned by a Jersey-based company called BL Development.

The 1967 multi-storey block has right now been demolished to make way for “a luxury collection of one to all 5 bedroom apartments across six architecturally striking towers”. These range in cost by £1.5m to more than £10m.

The leasehold of Admiralty Arch, the former government building off Trafalgar Squar of which straddles one end of The Mall, was sold to hotel developer Prime Investments for £141m. the idea is usually registered to a Guernsey-based entity, Admiralty Arch Hotels Ltd.

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brand-new Scotland Yard

While the most expensive buildings are commercial properties such as hotels as well as office blocks in prime central London locations, many are residential properties rather than business premises.

Take Green Street, London W1 – a residential street of highly-desirable four-storey redbrick Victorian terraces, fronted by smart wrought-iron railings.

Walking east to west you’ll pass one terraced residence owned, according to the latest records, by the Turks as well as Caicos Islands by a company called Alliance Property Ltd. Next door is usually another residence owned by Lily Holding & Finance Inc, registered in BVI.

In all, 15 properties on the street are owned by companies registered inside British Virgin Islands, four in Jersey as well as one inside Isle of Man. Others have owners in Italy, Hong Kong as well as Singapore.

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The leasehold of Admiralty Arch is usually registered to a Guernsey-based entity

Accountants used to recommend using an offshore company to overseas buyers of property inside UK as a means of avoiding inheritance tax when the owner passed away.

“Until April 2017, if you weren’t resident inside UK as well as held a residential property via a company the idea was not counted as being an asset for UK-based inheritance tax purposes. So having a property through an offshore company meant you escaped inheritance tax,” says Mark Giddens, of accountants as well as consultants UHY Hacker Young.

However, since last year the government announced plans to close the loophole, dramatically reducing the attractions of offshore ownership of residential property.

Offshore jurisdictions such as BVI still offer buyers who wish to keep their names out of the public realm greater privacy than they would likely enjoy if they purchased their property as an individual.

While most tax havens have agreed to take part in automatic information exchange, allowing law enforcement agencies to discover the individuals who enjoy beneficial ownership of an offshore company, their names will not appear inside published data.

In contrast to residential properties owned by individuals, the Land Registry does not always Discharge “cost paid” figures for properties owned by companies.

Adding up the 27,835 properties whose most recent sale prices we know, the cost paid was just over £55 billion.

Notes: The BBC analysed the January 2018 Overseas Companies Ownership data made public by the HM Land Registry. The data is usually accurate up to January 2018 as well as contains around 97,000 title records of freehold as well as leasehold property in England as well as Wales, registered to companies incorporated outside the UK. The map shows 71,000 of the 97,000 addresses. Those missing had incomplete data.

Data journalism by Nassos Stylianou, Ransome Mpini as well as Daniele Palumbo.

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