Anti-money laundering: Chancellor briefed on ‘unfair’ fees paid by smaller agents

HMRC is consulting on anti-money laundering supervision fees paid by estate agents – including whether it is fair for large agents to benefit from a cap on charges, which effectively slashes thousands off their bills.

One agent who believes it is very unfair and that smaller independents are subsidising the corporate giants, has taken it up with his local MP – who in turn raised it with the Chancellor. As a result, HMRC has launched its consultation.

But James Wyatt, of Barton Wyatt in Surrey, said he is concerned that very few agents seem to know about it.

In his own response to the consultation, he has said that the cap is a “nonsense”. He said: “Larger businesses are better resourced in all respects to deal with red tape than small businesses.

“These charges need to be fair and proportionate. Large businesses should pay per office, and pay the same rate as a one or two office business.”

The consultation, which seems to have been entirely unpublicised as far as the trade media are concerned, outlines the seven business sectors supervised by HMRC, of which estate agency is one.

HMRC took over the responsibility for supervising estate agents on April 1, after the closure of the OFT.

The fee for estate agents under the OFT was £49 – increased to £110 per office once HMRC took over. This is the same fee charged per set of premises in the other business sectors, which also pay £50 for a “fit and proper” person’s check.

The OFT had capped the maximum that an agent would pay to 20 branches. HMRC took over this cap for one year, pending a fees review.

In its consultation, it is proposing:

  • EITHER to retain the cap, but raise fees by £10 next year and £5 the year after; OR
  • Remove the cap, and increase the fee by £5 next year and the same the year after; OR
  • Remove the cap, increase fees by £5 in two years’ time, increase the ‘fit and proper ‘person’s test fee to £100, and introduce a non-refundable fee of £100 for new agents applying for the first time.

The third option is the one that HMRC prefers.

The consultation closes on November 21 and asks just four questions.

Wyatt, who is also chairman of the NAEA’s Surrey branch, told Eye: “I doubt whether many estate agents even know about this consultation.

“It’s all over a very small fee, but it’s the fairness aspect of it that annoys me.

“Agents currently pay £110 a year, but this is capped once you have 20 offices, so large corporates pay a maximum of £2,200 a year.

“That means that someone like Countrywide should be paying something like £143,000 for their 1,300 offices – yet pay £2,200.

“It means small estate agency business are subsidising them.”

Wyatt has taken up the matter with his local MP, Philip Hammond, who shared his concerns and told Wyatt he will be discussing it with George Osborne.

The consultation is here




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  1. Blue

    Whatever they do will be in their best interests not ours.

  2. Trevor Mealham

    I was at the HMRC meeting and suggested the cap was unfair and should be lifted for large agents to pro rata pay the same. I'm glad to see that it part forms Option 2 of the consultation.


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