Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man have announced they will voluntarily adopt public registers of the true owners of offshore companies incorporated in their jurisdictions.
The beneficial ownership registers, which show the ultimate owner of a company, are currently only accessible by local authorities in the UK's Crown Dependencies.
Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man said in a joint statement they would bring forward legislation for public access to a central register within 12 months of an EU anti-money-laundering review which is due in January 2022.
We hope to encourage other jurisdictions to raise their own standards, particularly in relation to the verification of data and the regulation of the financial services sector"
"We hope to encourage other jurisdictions to raise their own standards, particularly in relation to the verification of data and the regulation of the financial services sector," Jersey's external relations minister, Ian Gorst, said.
The islands' registers of beneficial ownership of companies will be first connected to those within the EU for access by law enforcement authorities, then opened up to financial service businesses that require access for corporate due-diligence purposes and finally to the public in 2023 as laid down by the EU directive.
The European Union anti-money laundering rules say that a public beneficial ownership register is essential in the efforts to combat the misuse of shell companies to hide money.
It follows months of pressure from the UK, where politicians say it will help in tackling tax. In March, more than 40 MPs supported an amendment which would have forced the Channel Islands to be more transparent when it comes to owns assets, but that debate was withdrawn.
In the UK, the names of anyone who owns more than 25% of a registered company are publicly available.
Chief Minister Howard Quayle said the Isle of Man has "always met international standards and with this move, it will continue to do so". Gavin St Pier, chief minister of Guernsey, said it has "stated repeatedly that we would move to a public register of beneficial ownership as that becomes an international norm".
Naomi Hirst, a senior anti-corruption campaigner at Global Witness, said: "This positive move shows that we are finally seeing years of campaigning by civil society and parliamentarians take effect. Transparency is the new norm.
"The era of secrecy is a thing of the past and other tax havens must now make their own moves to bring the real people behind anonymously owned companies out of the shadows. Any state failing to do so will be left behind."