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SARs - Top tips for effective reporting

The National Crime Agency (NCA) have expressed their appreciation for the Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) that accountants provide.

What we do in providing SARs is already providing value, but there are further ways in which we can help law enforcement maximise their use, whilst avoiding wasted effort and maintaining confidentiality on our part. ICAEW has set out some practical hints and tips for effective reporting.

Providing the right information

NCA understands that we don't always have complete information about the subjects of our reports, particularly because we may frequently be reporting on subjects which are not our clients. Customers, suppliers, acquisition targets etc are all potential SAR subjects as well as clients. On our side, we need to appreciate that the more identifying information and clear explanation of our suspicions we provide to NCA, the more likely they are to be able to match our data to other intelligence and put it to active use. The following points may help you in compiling high quality SARs of real value.

  • Subject type. Use the options to classify each subject as suspect, victim or unknown, this helps put each subject's role into context and also makes clear where subjects are not suspected of criminal activity
  • Subject details - individuals. Where possible provide any middle names, date of birth (especially helpful), addresses (including postcodes where known), email addresses, web page addresses and any other known identifiers such as national insurance number, passport number, car registration or phone numbers
  • Subject details - entities. Wherever possible include the registration number, (tax reference and VAT number is also useful), country of incorporation, addresses (including postcodes where known), email and web addresses, phone numbers and wherever possible the full legal name and designation, e.g. Limited, SA, GmbH etc.
  • Services provided. The ability of NCA frontline staff to understand and analyse a SAR is enhanced by the reporter providing details of the types of services being provided at the time the suspicion arose.
  • Reason for suspicion. Keep your explanation succinct and focus on what you have seen and why it is unusual or suspicious. Where you feel able to, refer to which predicate offences (i.e. the underlying criminal conduct giving rise to the money laundering) you think may have been committed. If you know the Act and section number detailing the offence (only if you know, you don't have to do legal research), put it in as it helps explain why you are reporting. Keep to plain English, or at least explain any technical terms you use even if they seem obvious to you.

Glossary Codes

  • What are glossary codes?
    Glossary codes are combinations of letters and numbers that law enforcement use to identify specific crimes.
  • Why use them?
    Use of the codes and their descriptions significantly enhances the capabilities of law enforcements agencies to utilise SARs. They can also assist reporters to explain the general nature of their suspicion or their reason for reporting.
  • How to use them?
    When submitting a SAR, the relevant prefix(es) from the glossary can be included in the ‘Reason for Suspicion/Knowledge’ text space.
  • Where can I find them?
    The codes were updated effective 1 September 2016. The new guidance can be found here.

Submitting your report

  • Format - wherever possible use SAR Online - this system has the advantage of secure transmission and instant acknowledgment with a reference number. For NCA, it greatly reduces processing time meaning quicker dissemination to law enforcement and less time tied up in administrative tasks
  • Hard-copy reporting - if you don't have the facilities to use the electronic systems, then please use the NCA standard forms and type your information - non-standard formats or handwritten reports take a lot of processing time and provide potential for error in interpretation and input
  • Don't send supporting documents with your report - if NCA need further information they will contact you
  • Generally when completing the form - think what, who, why, when, how, where and keep it as short and punchy as possible. The NCA website provides guidance.

Consent Requests

The NCA will reject consent requests where they are not sufficiently specific. The applicant will be sent a notification of closure letter giving reasons for rejection. A new report (and consent request) will then have to be submitted. New guidance (published July 2016) is available on the NCA website.

Further NCA Guidance