Simpson Millar, a law firm operating nationwide, has been rebuked and fined for promotion of SDLT avoidance schemes, which cost HMRC £4.5 million. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) gave its maximum punishment to the national law firm, which was responsible for almost 250 dubious tax relief transactions. In addition, the firm was involved in advising other law firms on 80 further transactions which related to questionable tax relief. Marketed as tax efficient, the schemes relied on series of complex transactions to illegally acquire tax relief. Ultimately, HMRC viewed the schemes as being for tax avoidance purposes. Companies that operated the tax avoidance schemes, on behalf of which Simpson Millar acted, included:
- Innovative Tax Solutions
- Inventive Tax Strategies
- Sterling Tax Strategies
- Professional Advice Bureau Limited
The Solicitors Regulation Authority found that Simpson Millar benefitted to the tune of almost £400,000 from its involvement in promoting the SLDT tax relief scheme. The sum includes payments from companies operating the tax avoidance scheme worth £152,000. The regulatory body also calculated that the cost of the avoided payments to HMRC was more than £4.5 million. Furthermore, the regulatory authority also found Simpson Millar in violation of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007. The law firm admitted failure to act in the best interests of both lending and purchasing clients. Additionally, the firm was cautioned for violation of Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998, having failed to keep accounting records properly written up.
Despite a strong rebuke, from the SRA over the tax relief scheme, Simpson Millar had cooperated fully with the investigation which continued over a 6-year period. In addition to a stern rebuke, the law firm received a fine of £2,000 and was ordered by the regulator to pay costs of £12,950.