On 11 June, the Isle of Man Government announced that general social distancing requirements will cease from Monday 15 June. Requirements will continue to apply in some environments including health and care facilities. The decision to remove social distancing requirements was made after 22 consecutive days without a new case and measures will be reintroduced as necessary. As of 1 July 2020, the Isle of Man remains COVID-free and emergency legislative powers have ended.

1. Filings – updated

Court Documents / filings at Probate & Tribunals

The public counter at the court building is now open to the public. The courts will resume pre-COVID business as usual from 29 June, reverting to normal systems for filing on this date.

More information can be found on the dedicated COVID-19 page on the Isle of Man Courts of Justice website.

Companies Registry filings

The registry building began a phased re-opening from Monday 15 June. Litigation search services have therefore resumed as usual. Some restrictions on services and opening times remain in place and the Registries have asked that customers continue to use online services where possible.

The Isle of Man Companies Registry had introduced a regime, under emergency powers, for electronic filing of documents. The regulations made temporary provision for the electronic filing of documents for companies and certain other enterprises during the Coronavirus Proclamation period (which has now come to an end). Despite such emergency powers no longer being in place, the Registries intend to have some of the regulations implemented permanently to streamline filings and signings in the future by providing an alternative means of submitting statutory documents to Companies Registry for registration (subject to certain requirements and limitations). Until the official position is confirmed, we understand that the Companies Registry have reverted to pre-COVID business as usual, except they are still continuing to receive files electronically.

The Land Registry webpage has also been updated to include more information on the potential waiver of late registration fees.

The Land Registry have issued a reminder that Practice Directive PD01/2020 comes into effect on 1 June. This directive is not directly inspired by the pandemic, but is relevant in so much as it anticipates an increase in electronic applications. It is designed to prevent fraudulent applications, by requiring proof of identity for certain land transactions, including those involving companies and/or undisclosed beneficial interests. The Practice Directive can be found here, and the accompanying practice guide is here

2. Can searches be conducted? 

Company Searches are being conducted in the usual way through the online platform. Due to the re-opening of the public counter at the registries building, litigation searches can now resume per usual practice.

3. Certificates of good standing – if and how these are being conducted

The current procedure is largely electronic so is not affected. Requisition forms are emailed to the registry, or a certificate can be ordered by phone. We understand that the priority service for certificates of fact/good standing may not be available as the registry cannot currently guarantee turnaround times. The registry will email a copy of the certificate with hard copy to follow if specifically requested. More information can be found here.

4. Other searches – how are these being conducted? 

Litigation

Due to the re-opening of the public counter at the registries building, searches of the Claims and Judgments Register can now resume per usual practice.

Land

It is possible to submit Land applications and requests for Office Copies and Survey Map extracts electronically. More information is available here. The Land Registry, which is situated in the same office as the Probate and Tribunals office, is due to open on Monday 22 June.

Probate

The public counter at the probate and tribunals office re-opened on Monday 22 June. The office is still encouraging users to email any essential enquiries. More information can be found here.

The purchase or requisition of deeds and / or probates can be made through the online service as per usual practice here.

Aircraft Registry

The Aircraft Registry are still running a comprehensive service and are taking queries by email. Their current information can be found here.

Shipping Registry

The Shipping Registry are running business as usual with colleagues working remotely. More information can be found here.

5. Court sessions and position (including filings and hearings) – updated

The Courts resumed business as usual (pre-COVID) from 29 June. The public counter in the Courts building has now re-opened and all normal services have been resumed. It remains possible to pre-arrange attendance by appointment which may assist staff with waiting times. Jury trials will re-commence in July.

More information can be found on the Isle of Man Courts of Justice dedicated COVID-19 page.

6. Any travel restrictions 

The borders are still closed to all arrivals, with the exception of a very limited group of people who are necessary for the critical national infrastructure of the Island or the preservation of human life. Travel for compassionate reasons is also allowed with prior written approval. Flights will also remain in operation solely for the purposes of  emergency medical transportation and mail. As part of the Isle of Man Government 6-phase plan for easing lockdown, the opening of borders is the final stage so it is likely that borders will not open for some time. More information on travel can be found here.

7. Other temporary regulatory measures

In its 21 May press release, the IOMFSA emphasised their capacity to conduct inspections of regulated entities remotely. The Inspections can be conducted through information already submitted to the FSA and via tele-conference or video-conference meetings. Any other additional information required by the FSA can be sent electronically. The FSA recognise that timeframes may need to be modified to take account of the circumstances. More information can be found here.

The Isle of Man Financial Services Authority (IOMFSA) issued a press release on 13 May based on new draft guidance from Isle of Man Government for return to the office where working from home is not possible, and the specific considerations for regulated entities and their employees, from the perspectives of risk assessment, health and safety and business continuity planning.

The IOMFSA also issued a press release on 11 May drawing attention to a risk assessment published by the Island’s Financial Intelligence Unit regarding the increased risks of money laundering, cybercrime and other attempts to exploit the pandemic situation. They also link to a FATF publication on COVID-related risks regarding AML and terrorist financing. All of the COVID-related FSA updates can be found here.

The IOMFSA’s update issued on 4 May 2020 includes commentary on: How the Authority is operating; The need to ensure activities stay within regulatory permissions – in particular the risk of inadvertently conducting the regulated activity of advising on investments without a licence; Outreach to regulated entities on financial stability monitoring – including a representative sample of licenced entities within the investment and fiduciary sectors; The importance of Director prudence when exercising fiduciary obligations; Notifications to the Authority in respect of financial or operational issues. Other press releases have focussed on how to contact the FSA, the electronic transmission of Returns and Notifications, submission of Audited Financial Statements and signatures on official business documents including a flexible approach regarding audit requirements and annual compliance returns. The FSA has issued a reminder to Regulated Entities and Auditors of Regulated Entities that at this time all submissions to the FSA, including Annual Regulatory Reporting, Financial Resources Reporting, Audited Accounts and Audit Reports should be sent in electronic form. All FSA updates can be viewed here.

The Isle of Man Government has launched a loan guarantee scheme to provide additional financial support to certain local businesses facing disruption as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. The scheme has also been agreed in coordination with the Governments of Jersey and Guernsey.  The scheme is operated through banks who lend to local businesses in the Isle of Man. More information can be found here.

8. Implications for economic substance compliance

No formal guidance has been issued on the subject of economic substance.  Companies that are “relevant sector companies” (as that term is defined in Part 6A of the Income Tax Act 1970) continue to be subject to the economic substance requirements of that Act.

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