Financial Intelligence Centre puts an additional responsibility on estate agents
IN RECENT years estate agents have found they are expected to perform a policing/checking service on behalf of the Financial Intelligence Centre.
Until now, this has involved verifying the identity and proof of address of sellers and landlords, as well as reporting suspicious or unusual transactions and possible terrorist activity.
Sean McCauley, northern region director of Rawson Properties, says agents have been given a further duty, known as cash-threshold reporting.
“Cash-threshold reporting provides a mechanism to monitor reported cash transactions, so that potential proceeds of crime are identified and investigated. Any estate agent who receives R25 000 or more in cash from a client, or pays out R25 000 or more in cash to a client, must immediately report the particulars of the transaction to the Financial Intelligence Centre,” he says.
“Cash is defined as notes, coins or traveller’s cheques and excludes payment by cheque, bank transfer or electronic transfer. The objective seems to
Cash transactions over R25 000 must be reported immediately
be to keep track of ‘hot money’.
“ T r a d i t i o n a l l y, m o n e y earned from illegal (possibly even terrorist) activities has found a safe, not easily traced, haven in property but that will now be more difficult.”
From December 1 all estate agencies and their branches are accountable institutions under the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (Fica) and will have to acquire separate secure login credentials from the Financial Intelligence Centre to report these cash-threshold transactions.
Estate agents are also by law now obliged to inform the SA Revenue Service of any property sale by non-residents (any person who is not a South African citizen). With the assistance of the conveyancer the agents have also to withhold five to 10 percent of the purchase price from the seller. This is used as security for the payment of capital gains tax.
McCauley says the role of estate agents is increasingly responsible. They are seen as partners with Fica and Sars in ensuring good governance.