Two conveyancing firms settle with SRA over £3 million SDLT avoidance

Two firms who illegitmately avoided more than £3 million in stamp duty each have been fined and rebuked by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Norfolk-based Hawkins Ryan avoided payment of at least £3,763,634.47 to HMRC on behalf of its clients and was fined £2,000 as well as being asked to pay SRA costs of £3,636.47

London-based Benson Mazure LLP’s work resulted in non-payment of at least at least £3,679,575.50 to HMRC. They were also fined £2,000 and were asked to pay SRA costs of £12,129.00.

Benson Mazure implemented four schemes to enable its clients to dodge SDLT in 156 cases, primarily through an unlimited company scheme and a “crystal” delayed sale scheme, receiving a total of £92,400 for the work in addition to their £600 plus VAT fee. Benson Mazure estimate transactions making use of such schemes made up 5% of their total revenues.

Paul Sheerin, partner at Hawkins Ryan admitted full responsibility for his firm’s involvement in 146 transactions between December 2009 and January 2013. Hawkins Ryan made use of eight different schemes, 85 of which were unlimited company schemes and 33 being delayed sub sale “crystal” schemes.

Hawkins Ryan were billed £1,591,522.85 inc VAT by Inventive tax Strategies for it’s work, with the firm billing their clients £71,500 plus vat. Paul Sheerin says the firm is no longer engaged in such practices, and that the firm did not proceed with the SDLT avoidance in around 50% of the cases they were instructed in.

Benson Mazure were also involved with Inventive Tax Strategies as well as another set of associated companies. Inventive Tax Strategies went into administration on 24th October 2013.

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