Saturday, October 31, 2020

HMRC denies sending ‘intimidating’ emails to agents over money laundering

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HMRC has totally rejected suggestions that emails now being sent to estate agents about anti-money laundering are intimidating.

The emails mention visits and sanctions, including criminal records.

An HMRC spokesperson told EYE that the emails are all part of an ongoing campaign to make sure agents are aware of their responsibilities.

The email, which can be seen on the link below, talks about having visited businesses last week and says: “We carry out regular co-ordinated interventions, combining intelligence for potential breaches of the Money Laundering Regulations, tax failings, as well as potential criminal involvement in supervised businesses.

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“We also carry out educational visits to businesses to help them minimise the risk of being used by criminals.”

Read MoreHMRC update estate agency guidance for money laundering supervision

The letter warns of the “serious consequences” for not complying with anti-money laundering rules, including the possibility of a criminal conviction.

But one agent who received the email said the content seemed designed “to instill terror into the heart of any agent who is not toeing the line.

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“I can only describe the tone as hectoring, bordering on intimidating.”

The email was from HMRC Business Help and Support, and is signed by the Customer Engagement Team.

The agent said that both titles could be considered misnomers.

He also pointed out that the HMRC emails had been sent to agents who are already registered.

He said: “I’m registered, I’ve paid my dues. That’s how they have my email address. I use ETSOS for AML checking of sellers and buyers and I also order a compliance pack that gives me Land Registry details to prove that the ’seller’ is the owner of the property. So I spend about £15 plus VAT per property – sell it or not.”

The email refers to HMRC’s visits to estate agency businesses, as we reported back in March.

We asked the spokesperson yesterday whether these visits are now taking place again, but he would not comment.

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