The Daily Echo reports that the director of a building company has been jailed for 18 months after he was convicted at Bournemouth Crown Court of VAT fraud offences.
The fraud is believed to have commenced in October 2007 and continued until June 2011 when officers raided Mr Price’s home and removed business records relating to the alleged fraud. The fraud extended to three companies that Mr Price ran – ECO Homes Constructions Ltd, The Steel Frame Company Ltd, and SIPS ECO Panels Direct Ltd. A police investigation had commenced in 2010 after HM Revenue and Customs conducted an audit of the companies that Mr Price had submitted VAT returns for. Based on the amount of VAT reclaimed, HMRC expected to find invoices worth more than £9 million. However, only a fraction of this sum appeared in Mr Price’s trading records and it was subsequently discovered that Mr Price had falsified hundreds of receipts and bank statements in an effort to cover up the fraud. Mr Price was subsequently arrested and charged with VAT fraud and he was convicted of three counts of VAT fraud at the Crown Court in February 2013 after he pleaded guilty to all three charges.
Mr Price’s criminal defence lawyer did not comment after the judgment although HM Custom and Revenue’s assistant director of criminal investigation, Mr John Cooper, stated that “HMRC thoroughly investigates all suspected tax fraud and clamps down on those that cheat the system”, adding that “Price committed fraud over a number of years deceiving not only HMRC, but also the thousands of businesses who operate honestly and within the law”.
VAT fraud is a criminal offence under s.72 of the Value Added Tax Act 1994. Under s.72 a person is guilty of a criminal offence if:
- They were knowingly concerned in, or in the taking of steps with a view to, the fraudulent evasion of VAT by him or any other person; or
- They within intent to deceive produces, furnishes or sends for the purposes of the Act or otherwise makes use for those purposes of any document which is false in a material particular; or
- They furnish any information for the purposes of the Act any statement which they know to be false in a material particular or recklessly makes a statement which is false in a material particular
VAT fraud is a serious offence and you may wish to take expert legal advice from a criminal defence solicitor if allegations of VAT fraud are put to you.