Land Registry analysis quantifies offshore property ownership

One in four properties in England and Wales owned by overseas firms is held by an entity registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), according to BBC News.

The tiny archipelago located in the Caribbean is home to companies that own 23,000 properties between them, making it the offshore location with the greatest number of properties. The properties are owned by 11,700 firms registered in BVI, which has a population of just 30,600.

Analysts from the BBC looked at data from the Land Registry relating to overseas property ownership. Around 97,000 properties in England and Wales are held by overseas firms, as of January 2018. The finding will add to claims that offshore tax havens under British control are a means for wealthy individuals to avoid paying tax.

The next largest concentration of offshore ownership is Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. Other popular places to register property ownership companies are Hong Kong, Panama and Ireland.

The analysis was produced following a change in rules over the record for England and Wales last November, which saw the Land Registry become public and free to access.

The research found that almost half (44%) of all properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales are in London, valued at a total of £33.9bn; more than one in ten properties (11,500) were located in the City of Westminster and 6,000 were in Kensington and Chelsea.

The government of BVI has denied that the country is a tax haven and claims there are many practical reasons why UK properties are owned by companies located on the islands, such as the opportunity to bring together multiple investors.