Money laundering crackdown on estate agents
HMRC have recently been cracking down on estate agents who do not comply with the money laundering regulations. HMRC officers visited 50 estate agents across England as part of a week-long crackdown after they were suspected of trading without being registered. Inspectors questioned the businesses to establish whether they were in breach of the regulations and assessed whether further action was required.
In cases where the estate agents have been uncompliant, large fines and potential criminal proceeds have been levied against them. Some estate agents who have failed to comply have even had their names published online, with one firm being fined £215,000.
Simon York, Director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, commented:
“Estate agents need to understand that criminals prey on weaknesses, so it’s vital they take all steps to protect themselves. The money laundering regulations are key to that, but there’s still a minority of agents who ignore their legal obligations. These inspections are a wake-up call that if you continue to trade illegally we will come knocking”.
In the last 3 years, HMRC has carried out over 5,000 interventions on supervised businesses and issued 655 penalties worth £2.3 million in 2017 to 2018. In a recent report by the Financial Action Task Force, the UK was rated as having the most robust processes in the world for tackling money laundering.
If you are operating an estate agency business, it is vital that you keep up to date with your anti-money laundering responsibilities. You must ensure that you are correctly registered with HMRC and if you notice any suspicious activity you should ensure that a report is made as appropriate.