Estate Agent Money Laundering Fines Action

Published / Last Updated on 26/01/2018

Buying and Selling PropertyEstate Agent Money Laundering Fines Action.

There have been a number of reports online that HMRC is taking action against Estate Agents with huge fines for money laundering check failures.

For many years, it was only financial services companies and solicitors that were required to verify the identity of an individual or company and also verify the source of funds to be invested in pensions, investments and property under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007.

However, HMRC took over responsibility for supervision from the Office of Fair Trading for Estate Agents in 2014 given that there is no official regulatory body, unlike financial services with the Financial Conduct Authority and solicitors with The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), an independent regulatory body created by the Law Society.

So what do we know about HMRC activities with Estate Agents?

We know that estate agents have been targeted with teams of inspectors dropping in, unannounced, to estate and lettings agents requesting lists of overseas ownership of UK property.  Selective details requested such as lists of clients that are British expats living overseas or foreign ownership lists, either personally or by corporate structure e.g. offshore company.

New regulations were also passed last year under the The Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017, more commonly known as the Money Laundering Regulations 2017 to 'beef up' the fight against criminal activity.

Three fold attack, which the first 2 are already in place and have been for a number of years:

  1. Register as a ‘Non-resident Landlord’: Rental income on UK property should legally have income tax withheld by the letting agent or the tenant themselves before passing the rent to the landlord if the landlord has not proved that they have registered with HMRC Non Resident Landlords Scheme (NRLS).
  2. Anti-Money Laundering: Illegal money laundering proceeds being invested in UK property, directly or via corporate structures, without the source of funds being checked and then the property sits vacant and the ‘money’ sits there ‘laundered’.
  3. A Public Register for Overseas owned Properties will go live in 2021 and it will be an offence not to register the property.

Comment

Literally, unlaundered ‘dirty’ money coming into the UK will be reduced and perhaps free up more property in the UK for sale and rental occupancy given the housing shortage in the UK.  In addition, more tax revenue for the UK?

Next stop: Bitcoin regulation?


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