Accountants Urged to Stay on Top of AML Responsibilities

A person using a calculator while reviewing documents on a desk, with text overlay about accountants and anti-money laundering (AML) responsibilities.

Accountants are being warned to keep up to date with their Anti-Money Laundering (AML) compliance requirements to avoid falling foul of the law.

Among the new obligations for accountants to consider are rules introduced in the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 that require overseas entities owning property in the UK to identify their beneficial owners.

The UK government introduced the Register of Overseas Entities (ROE) in August last year, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The Register forms a key part of the government’s strategy to tackle global economic crime and requires overseas entities that own UK property or land to declare their beneficial owners or managing officers.

However, a recent report by researchers from the London School of Economics (LSE), the University of Warwick, and the Centre for Public Data, found that more than two-thirds of properties in England and Wales held by overseas shell companies still do not reveal who owns them.

The report, published on Sunday 3 September 2023, found that 109,000 out of 152,000 English and Welsh properties held by foreign shell companies do not publish information about their owners, despite government attempts to crack down on anonymous ownership of UK property.

Accountants undertaking verification check services must tread carefully to ensure that they comply with the relevant client due diligence (CDD) process. Regulatory body the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) released guidance in August 2022 highlighting that the checks usually carried out to comply with AML regulations are not of the same standard required for verification.

The war in Ukraine has posed further problems for the accountancy sector which is also facing restrictions on services that firms can perform to persons connected to Russia.

In July 2022, the government introduced sanctions on certain services, including ‘accountancy services’, to Russian companies. 

“An important matter for us currently is clients and individuals/entities connected to Russia,” said Tamara Howe, director of financial crime prevention at chartered accountancy firm HW Fisher.

“We have had to consider the services we are providing when people are connected to Russia and work out where the risks are in our client portfolios and disengage with clients where we may have been providing services to people we can no longer act for under the new restrictions placed on accountancy firms,” she said.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has a range of enforcement powers that it can use for businesses that do not comply with the Money Laundering Regulations, including civil penalties, criminal proceedings and removal from the register. 

In June this year, HMRC said that it had fined 83 accountancy service providers (ASPs) a total of £600,000 for breaching anti-money laundering regulations between 1 July and 31 December 2022.

Compliance Solutions for Regulated Businesses

At AML & Compliance, we understand precisely what is required from all regulated businesses and have the experience to help devise and produce an effective AML compliance programme to fit your needs.

We can help organisations of all shapes and sizes from across different sectors to undertake a risk assessment to ensure that they are compliant with AML regulations and have the necessary policies and procedures in place to avoid any breaches.

A risk assessment provides valuable insight into a business when performed correctly. Along with an overview of risk, these crucial assessments also highlight issues within the business, so it is essential to undertake a risk assessment properly. All of a company’s building blocks must be considered, including its staff, clients, operations, and finances.

By working with AML & Compliance, a business can be assured that we will bring the required level of knowledge and expertise needed to perform a risk assessment which has value to the business and is not simply a box-ticking exercise. Our team can also provide a full range of services that include:

  • Consultancy.
  • Compliance Policies.
  • Training.
  • Handbooks.
  • Auditing.

Our services focus on businesses’ Anti-Money Laundering and Regulator requirements through the implementation of effective policies, procedures, training, and consultancy. We also provide continued monitoring of staff and ongoing training to ensure that everyone within a business is aware of the latest requirements and complies with their responsibilities.

Get in Touch

If you believe your business may be at risk, or wish to confirm your firm is achieving the required standard of AML and Compliance, we can help. We offer a full range of services focused on ensuring businesses across all regulated sectors create, maintain and evidence their compliance with the requirements of their regulators and legislation.

Our Packaged Services include:

AML Policy and Procedures including auditing and reporting

AML and Compliance Administration Management

These packages have been designed to provide a core compliance service to regulated businesses in the most cost-effective way to manage and control their AML and Compliance processes.

We adopt a sensible and pragmatic approach to fees, ensuring that we are competitive and always add value. As necessary, we will agree on packaged services to control cost and enable clients to spread payments to alleviate cash flow, yet ensure services are provided when needed. If you want to discuss our services in more detail, contact us at 0203 985 8553, email us or complete an enquiry form.