Money-laundering

Small law firms ‘should be exempt from crime levy’

cash money

Scottish solicitors are already regulated for money-related crime

Small high street law firms should not be hit with a levy aimed at combating money-laundering, says the Law Society of Scotland.

The professional body for Scottish solicitors is strongly opposed to the legal profession paying such a levy as solicitors are subject to stringent anti-money laundering requirements, but has stated that if it is to be introduced, then smaller firms should be exempt.

It has criticised the view of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which regulates solicitors in England and Wales, that small law firms in the UK should pay further costs to combat the society-wide problem of money laundering.  

In its Economic Crime Levy Consultation, HM Treasury has proposed that smaller law firms, which are often at the coalface of fighting money laundering, should be subject to a new economic crime charge.

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In its consultation submission, the SRA has stated that ‘criminals may specifically target small firms’ and should therefore be subject to an anti-money laundering (AML) levy.

In its response, the Law Society of Scotland argues that the legal profession is strongly committed to fighting economic crime arising from money laundering and has been on the front line of defence for a very long time, investing considerably in measures to forestall economic crime.

It has said that as wider society benefits from anti-money laundering activity it should be funded centrally rather than through the legal sector and other professional services sectors, stating that “the impacts of economic crime are felt across society as a whole and therefore any benefits that materialise from tackling economic crime are equally beneficial”.

Scottish solicitors are subject to some of the most stringent anti-money laundering rules in the world

– Law Society of Scotland

Law Society of Scotland President, Amanda Millar, said: “I reiterate the point we made to HM Treasury, that we are diametrically opposed to the introduction of a further levy being placed on Scottish solicitors at all and particularly at a time when so much is being asked of the legal professions in order to keep our society operating.

“It is extremely disappointing to see this response from the SRA. There can be no question of the legal profession’s commitment to tackling economic crime resulting from money laundering activities.

“Scottish solicitors are subject to some of the most stringent anti-money laundering rules in the world, monitored by an AML-specific team as part of the Society’s regulatory function.  This is funded entirely by the profession, meaning Scottish solicitors already contribute to measures that benefit everyone in society.

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