20 August 2014
A property lawyer fined by HMRC for not paying Stamp Duty Land Tax on his £760,000 home has lost his fight for anonymity.

In 2010 Richard Chan declared on his SDLT return that his house cost £100,000, which conveniently put it below the threshold for SDLT. When HMRC opened an investigation it discovered that the purchase price was actually £763,750, and £30,550 in SDLT was due.

Chan paid both the tax and, fearful of being publically named as a wrongdoer, the £16k penalty HMRC imposed on him for submitting a deliberately inaccurate return. Unfortunately the tax man told him that by paying the penalty he had admitted his guilt and, as a result, it was definitely going to release his details. Chan appealed to the Tax Tribunal.

    A £100k house yesterday

His appeal went poorly. Judge Barbara Mosedale said Chan's evidence "did not show him to be a person of high ethical standards". She blasted his claim that publication of her decision would be libellous if it contained his name ("as a matter of law, it is not") and slapped down his argument that his name shouldn't be revealed because he could get into trouble with the SRA, explaining that, "far from justifying anonymity, [Chan's position as a solicitor] positively favours full publication".

Until recently Chan was being praised in the legal press for the explosive growth of his firm, Arc Property Solicitors. Alas, last year the SRA closed it down and ordered Chan to appear before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for alleged failings including acting in conflicted transactions, mixing up client cash and, yes, SDLT avoidance at the firm.

If Chan isn't struck off on those charges at his SDT hearing in September, he should probably keep the champagne on ice. As he suspected, the SRA has pricked up its ears at the latest revelation. A spokesman said "In terms of the court’s decision...we would expect all solicitors to report such matters to us. We are aware of the judgement and are considering what options are available to us to address any risks this solicitor might pose".
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