Today, I attended my first HMRC client swoop and spent the morning helping estate agent clients field questions by an HMRC team of three people on their anti-money laundering risk assessment, policies, due diligence procedures, training and record retention arrangements that I had crafted for them. Thankfully, the HMRC team appeared to be happy with what they found. What surprised me, was the fact of the swoop itself. The clients cannot reasonably be considered to be high risk.

It became apparent from my discussions with the team about the approach now being taken to HMRC enforcement is that:

* London Estate Agents are very much on the compliance radar;
* HMRC are shining the spotlight on anti-money laundering business risk assessments that estate agents are required to crafted and keep up to date;
* HMRC expect that proper client and counter-party due diligence must be undertaken when marketing commences and not before or even after exchange of contracts and completion; and
* Standard generic risk assessments, policies, procedures and forms crafted by so-called compliance experts are simply not acceptable and will attract HMRC attention and penalties.

Until now, Estate Agents have been receiving standard letters asking them to submit their suite of documents to HMRC for scrutiny. Now, it seems that a regime of visits by HMRC is set to become the norm and not the exception; although the HMRC team would not be drawn on aggravating factors.

HMRC has spend some time building anti-money laundering compliance teams in London, Birmingham and the North and is now deploying those teams across the country. Estate Agents are strongly advised to ensure that their systems and controls are not only in place but properly deployed.

HMRC are on the war path! Don’t be complacent; we can help.