HMRC issue over £1.6m in fines to estate agents

HMRC issue over £1.6m in fines to estate agents for failing to register for AML supervision.

Press release written by Alison Blease, Director PR, FCS Compliance and Malcolm Driscoll, Lead AML Consultant, FCS Compliance.

HMRC has announced (28 March 2024) that 254 estate agency businesses have been fined a total of over £1.6m for failing to register, or re-register with them for Anti Money Laundering (AML).  The fines range from £1,500 to over £50,000.

Commenting, Malcolm Driscoll, Lead AML Consultant, FCS Compliance, said, “Registering with HMRC is one of the most basic requirements of the Money Laundering Regulations (MLR).  However, so many businesses fail to complete this simple obligation, either by ignorance or by believing that the regulations simply do not apply to them.”

Over the coming weeks HMRC will publish a follow up list outlining where estate agents have received financial penalties for breaches of the legislation.  These will include an absence of firm-wide documentation, incomplete or incorrect Customer Due Diligence (CDD) within the required timeframe and a lack of recognition of specific risks such as the value of property, High Risk Jurisdictions, Politically Exposed Persons (PEP’s), Companies, Trusts and Sanctions.  

Driscoll added: “While we accept our legal obligations to drive on the road – a driving licence, insurance, passing a test – for some there is a reluctance to accept AML obligations are needed to facilitate a property transaction where large sums of money are moved between parties.”

HMRC’s follow up list of further penalties will originate from its inspections, many of which will have been made on-site.  

Driscoll said: “To be compliant a business needs an accurate AML Policy & Procedures Manual and AML Risk Assessment that reflects the company’s business activities, awareness of the legislation, adherence to it and the specific risks that the company faces.  Additionally, staff must be trained regularly and the obligations to the completion of CDD fully understood and undertaken.  These are the things that HMRC are looking at when they conduct their ‘random’ and ‘short notice’ inspections.

“All agents are at risk and it’s up to them to mitigate those risks or accept they could face an onerous HMRC fine.”

Dated: April 2024

For help and support on the topics mentioned, please get in touch with our knowledgeable FCS Compliance Team.

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