A MECHANIC who stole more than £300,000 in VAT customers’ payments attempted to justify the fraud by telling revenue officers that he was “no accountant”.
Ian John Coleman, 53, was jailed for 32 months by Recorder Woolfall, after admitting 12 counts of fraud at his West Yorkshire business, Top Gear Transmissions Ltd.
Leeds Crown Court heard he pocketed the VAT charged to customers instead of passing it to HM Revenue and Customs.
The fraud was uncovered when HMRC officers found anomalies in Coleman’s paperwork.
During a search of his lock-up garage in Cleckheaton, last March, investigators discovered the company’s real records dating back to 2003.
They also found Coleman had avoided paying more than £15,000 in VAT by under-declaring scrap metal sales.
With interest, his total liability was £377,141. HMRC said confiscation action to recover the sum was underway.
Coleman, of Knowler Way, Liversedge, denied any wrongdoing, but offered no explanation for failing to submit accurate VAT returns, saying that he was “no accountant”.
HMRC spokesman Martin McDonnell said: “Coleman thought that he’d found a way to exploit the tax system. He was wrong, and now he’s now paying the price with a jail sentence. This is money that should have been funding vital public services, and Coleman created an uneven playing field for his honest competitors.
“Most people pay the tax they owe, when they owe it, but a small minority think they are above the law.”
HMRC has set up a phone line on which suspected VAT fraud can be reported, on 0800 59 5000.