By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies to enhance your experience.

Just in case running an estate agency is not bureaucratic enough, HM Revenue & Customs has just issued a 41 page document giving the latest guidance on how to conform with money laundering legislation.

The guidelines, posted over the weekend on the HMRC website, apply to agents and other transaction professionals - finance houses, accountants and IFAs and lawyers, plus art dealers and casino promoters.

The guidelines are of course important and echo what responsible agents follow already.

But they emphasise what HMRC calls a risk-based approach that should balance the costs to your business and customers with a realistic assessment of the risk that criminals may exploit the business for money laundering and terrorist financing.

More explicitly, at the heart of the guidelines, it becomes clear that HMRC expects more from those agents dealing in high value properties, chiefly in London and any other location where international buying is a significant element of everyday business.

It's unlikely that a high street Estate Agency Business in a small market town will come across customers involved in terrorist financing the document concedes. And it later says: if you have many high net-worth customers or customers from a particular country or region, this will influence the business-wide assessment.

The guidelines explicitly say the financial propriety of deals for properties with a sale price just below a stamp duty threshold, and sales of woodland and agricultural land, should be scrutinised especially closely by agents.

Posing an interesting dilemma for some fledgling online estate agencies, the guidelines also say a customer may pose a risk if deals are not face to face.

The guidelines insist that even if an agent believes there is no risk of money laundering at all, there must be evidence for any HMRC inspection that the possibility of a risk has at least been considered - even if it is then dismissed.

In other words, simply ignoring the possibility is not an acceptable option for HMRC.

The document also reiterates that agents must keep records of customer due diligence checks and business transactions for five years after the end of the customer relationship or transaction, and agents must keep records of suspicious activity reports and any other internal or external reports and decisions.

The full document is here:



  • icon

    Whilst its important for regulations and guidelines to be put in place, taking too drastic or draconian measures seems unnecessary and over-the-top. Incidents of money laundering through estate agents is still, thankfully, very rare, and an overly diligent, bureaucratic approach just punishes the responsible agents out there who already do much of what is detailed in HMRCs guidelines. As Jonathan Doherty says, trying to take common sense out of the equation and adding too much red tape could cause more trouble than its worth, by making things confusing and extremely time-consuming.

    • 23 June 2014 09:08 AM
  • icon

    If what they are saying is "use your common sense" then this is exactly what is needed. Solicitors already do a much more detailed version of what we do so all the red tape we agents were doing was purely to look out for the extremely rare cases of them colluding with their clients to launder.

    • 23 June 2014 08:33 AM
MovePal MovePal MovePal