HMRC took over anti-money laundering regulation from the Office of Fair Trading in 2014 and is responsible for seven sectors including Estate Agents. However, despite regular announcements about cracking down and revealing breaches, they haven’t yet broken down statistics by industry.
It is, therefore, impossible to prove recent claims of one-fifth of estate agencies incurring fines over anti-money laundering rules.
The department currently only reveal total numbers of organisations fined. To make matters worse, there is no information on the average fine, or even the largest fine incurred. It’s impossible even to know which industry they cover is the most vulnerable.
However, HMRC claims all the information does exist, but is kept private to stop criminals trying to take advantage of the system.
“HMRC takes failure to comply with the Money Laundering Regulations extremely seriously, and we carry out regular checks to ensure customers are correctly following the rules.
“For the three full years since 2014-15, when we became the supervisor of estate agency businesses, we have issued 2,725 penalties with a total value of £2,498,111 for all sectors – including estate agency businesses – for failing to comply with their obligations.
“We haven’t previously given out detailed breakdowns of penalties for each sector we supervise, as this could aid criminals by highlighting how we deploy our resources and may be used to identify businesses.”
HMRC has seemed to take a strong line in the past about how it will name and shame, as well as randomly spot-checking agencies – but have been criticised for not living up to their promises.
Earlier in the year, agents faced problems registering for anti-money laundering supervision using HMRC’s website and helpline – but the regulator refused to extend the deadline.
Ed Mead, Viewber’s co-founder, said sufficient policing is imperative but doesn’t offer a complete solution.
“Effective policing is vital to seeing the regulations work, but 2725 penalties over all sectors in three years does not match claims that one fifth of ALL (there are c. 25000 agents – and that’s one of seven sectors covered) agents being fined,” Mead told Agent Wow.