Empowering the Freelance Economy

Fail to register your business while trading? It could lead to prison sentences and an unlimited fine

Failing to register your business could lead to penalties and jail time/ Photo by Donald Tong via Pexels
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HMRC is cracking down on individuals who are trading without complying with anti-money laundering requirements. Estate agents are among the top offenders, according to a new report. With more umbrella company contractors looking to go independent, ensuring proper company registration and anti-money laundering compliance is a wise move.

Dozens of estate agents in the UK have been fined more than £500,000 for breaching anti-money laundering requirements, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has reported.

HMRC named the 68 estate agents that have been fined a total of £519,645 for not complying with rules designed to stop criminals from laundering money from illegal activity.

The fines followed the first prosecution of an estate agent for trading despite not registering with HMRC, to ensure compliance with money laundering regulations.

“Felix Uwuigbe, Director of Century House Estates Ltd in London, was sentenced to 120 hours of unpaid community service and banned from acting as an estate agent for 2 years after he was convicted of trading for 3 months while unregistered,” according to the HMRC report.

Nick Sharp, HMRC’s Deputy Director of Economic Crime

We are determined to create a level playing field for businesses who play by the rules. That means taking action against the minority of businesses who fail to fulfil their legal responsibilities under the money laundering regulations.

Money laundering is not a victimless crime. Our regulations are there to protect businesses from those criminals who would prey on their services to wash their dirty money.

Serious and organised crime costs the UK billions of pounds every year and our anti-money laundering supervision is a vital tool in combatting that.

Nick Sharp, HMRC’s Deputy Director of Economic Crime

The full list of businesses not complying with money laundering regulations is published on GOV.UK and sees 175 businesses receiving penalties totalling £2,180,708.

The list was previously published in May 2022, which saw 147 businesses, including 41 estate agents, receive penalties totalling almost £800,000.

This latest round of penalties also sees the first business in the arts sector being fined.

HMRC is currently investigating a number of other cases of businesses failing to register whilst trading, which could lead to prison sentences of up to two years and an unlimited fine.

Businesses can check if they need to register for money laundering supervision on GOV.UK. They can register online for supervision on GOV.UK.

Anyone can report unregistered businesses to HMRC using the online form on GOV.UK.

Further information

HMRC is one of 25 Anti-Money Laundering supervisors in the UK. HMRC delivers its supervisory responsibility through its Economic Crime Supervision teams. 

HMRC has stated that it helps ensure that businesses comply with the current Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 and have systems and processes in place to protect themselves and their services from being exploited for the purposes of money laundering and terrorist financing. HMRC currently supervises around 29,000 businesses across nine different sectors: 

  • Money Service Businesses
  • Accountancy Service Providers
  • Trust or Company Service Providers
  • Estate Agency Businesses
  • Letting Agency Businesses
  • Art Market Participants
  • High-Value Dealers
  • Bill Payment Service Providers 
  • IT and Digital Payment Service Providers
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