Conveyancing fee-earner banned over £338,000 tax scam

Conveyancing: Fee-earner admitted misconduct

A fee-earner who misappropriated at least £338,000 from her firm by making fraudulent land tax claims has been banned from the profession.

Sarah Tyler undervalued property prices in these claims or wrongly classified the property transaction type in returns to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and the Welsh Revenue Authority (WRA).

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has made Ms Tyler – who worked at Cardiff firm Hek Jones – subject to an order under section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974, which prohibits non-solicitors from working in the profession without its permission.

According to a regulatory settlement agreement published on Friday, Ms Tyler’s misconduct took place between October 2020 and November 2021.

She sent completion statements to clients with the correct amount of stamp duty land tax (SDLT) or WRA tax payable recorded for each property transaction.

This amount would be received into the client account but, after completing the matter, Ms Tyler would then input a lower amount when submitting the online tax return.

She then instructed the firm’s accounts department to make pay the excess remaining in client account to five different third parties who were known personally to her. They were described as referral payments.

Ms Tyler would then contact the third party and claim that there had been a payment made in error to them. She would then request they send it back to the firm but gave her own bank account details for the transfer.

In other cases, she intentionally failed to pay disbursements on several conveyancing transactions.

Hek Jones discovered what had been going on during a review of SDLT and land tax chaser letters from HMRC and WRA. Ms Tyler was dismissed after an investigation and reported to the SRA.

Ms Tyler admitted what she had done and that a section 43 order was appropriate. The SRA recorded that she has apologised to the firm and “expressed regret and remorse for her actions”.

She also agreed to pay the SRA costs of £3,150.

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