The agent which successfully appealed after being hit with the highest-ever fine for alleged breaches of anti-money laundering, has won its fight to have its costs paid by HMRC.
Jackson Grundy, in Northamptonshire, was fined £169,000 in 2014 by the now defunct Office of Fair Trading on its last day of operation.
The fine was 17 times larger than any previous penalty imposed on an estate agent – and had been cut from the £200,000 fine originally proposed.
The firm said that the fine came after a two-hour inspection of just six files. While it admitted to minor admin mistakes, such as not asking to see a utility bill, it had swiftly corrected its procedures.
In a press release at the time, the OFT said the fine was due to “significant and widespread failures”.
The firm – one of three to be fined by the OFT – said it would appeal and last year a tax tribunal ruled in its favour, describing the fine as “outrageous”.
The Judge said that only simple filing mistakes had been made by Jackson Grundy and ruled that the fine should be cut to £5,000.
The tribunal also invited Jackson Grundy to apply for costs.
Last year, the firm duly applied to the First-tier Tribunal for a direction that HMRC – which now handles anti-money laundering supervision – pay its costs in pursuing the appeal of £55,887.17 plus VAT.
The Judge directed HMRC to pay Jackson Grundy’s costs, subject to a detailed assessment if not agreed.
Last June, HMRC appealed against the costs decision. Jackson Grundy challenged the appeal.
In February this year, the firm went as respondent before the Upper Tribunal, Tax and Chancery Chamber, where HMRC was the appellant.
The Upper Tribunal has now ruled that HMRC is to pay Jackson Grundy’s costs.
However, it has also ruled that “some elements” in the claim may fall outside the rules, and has directed that the costs shall be the subject of detailed assessment by a costs judge of the Senior Courts if they cannot be agreed.
The costs will also only cover Jackson Grundy’s costs up until the First-tier Tribunal, which ruled that the original penalty was disproportionate. Costs incurred after then are not covered.
The latest, complicated, ruling is here:
Below are two links as to how EYE has previously covered the case.