An estate agent is being pursued by HMRC over an anti-money laundering bill for £120 and threatened with criminal prosecution and being put out of business.
However, Chris Willey, of Wilsons in Taunton, Somerset, says he has tried repeatedly to make the payment, following the instructions given to him in the letter, but says that HMRC’s own system will not let him.
Instead it tells him that he owes £230 – although he says this was paid last April.
Willey has also tried repeatedly to call HMRC on the phone number given but says that this simply rings and rings but is not answered.
He has also left a message on the site, urgently requesting help. A response said someone would get to him in two days, but so far he has heard nothing. He has even sent HMRC payment by cheque – the cheque was returned to him.
In desperation, he sent a letter by recorded delivery last Friday explaining: “I wish to comply with payment of the requested £120 as a matter of urgency but my AMLS account will not allow me to.
“When I try to make this payment the account tells me to pay not £120 but £230. I paid this to you on 9th April 2018.
“You advise that if this payment is not made, serious action may be taken against me.
“Something is wrong with your system and it is no fault of mine.
“Please help, this is extremely worrying.”
The letter from HMRC, dated August 31, gave Willey seven days to pay the £120, to cover outstanding approval check fees, payable at £40 per person with AML responsibilities.
The letter gives detailed instructions as to how to make the payment, and warns that if he fails to make the payment within seven days, there will be severe consequences.
It spells these out: Any new applications for AML registration will be refused; an existing registration will be revoked; and Willey is warned that if the business continues to operation without registration, he will be trading illegally and will be liable to a penalty and/or possible criminal prosecution.
The letter is signed by Jan Pond, head of anti-money laundering supervision and remote compliance at HMRC.
This is not the first time that agents have complained about the AML admin system operating at HMRC.
In March, numbers of agents told EYE of their difficulties in registering by the April 1 deadline, reporting problem after problem.
EYE was at the time in regular touch with HMRC through its press office, passing on our readers’ concerns.
Yesterday, we approached the press office again, regarding the latest case.
However, both the press officers we dealt with previously have now left.
We spoke at length to a member of the team about the case and left a message for the press officer who looks to be in charge of the AML brief. We emphasised that on behalf of our reader, this was an urgent case, and were assured that we would receive at least one phone call – but we have so far heard nothing back.
However, as we will be reporting tomorrow, once we did manage to contact the right press officer this morning after this story appeared, it is fair to say we had a very helpful response.
Meanwhile, Willey’s seven-day deadline has expired.
EYE would again be very interested to hear if other agents trying to comply with their AML requirements are having problems with HMRC.
If you are having difficulties, please post below or, if you would prefer, email firstname.lastname@example.org