Building firm boss avoids jail after £49k tax cheat

Patrick Munro had pled guilty previously at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Picture: Greg Macvean
Patrick Munro had pled guilty previously at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Picture: Greg Macvean
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The owner of a plumbing and building business, who cheated HMRC out of £49,000 in VAT, has been fined £7500 after it was revealed he had now paid the full amount.

Sixty-year old Patrick Munro of Hawkhead Crescent, Edinburgh, had pled guilty previously at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to the fraudulent evasion of VAT between June 2007 and February 2012.

Fiscal Depute, Graeme Jessop, told Sheriff Nigel Ross at the first hearing that Munro had been hiding his income by paying the cheques for work carried out into his personal bank account and not the business account, thereby understating his liability for VAT. He had not mentioned this to his accountant or HMRC said Mr Jessop.

The Fiscal added that when Munro was interviewed by HMRC: “He could give no reason for why it had been paid into his personal account”.

Defence solicitor, Nigel Bruce, said his client had paid £13,200 to HMRC and intended to pay the full amount.

Sheriff Ross deferred sentence for a background report on Munro, who had no previous convictions.

At today’s hearing, Mr Bruce said the full amount had now been paid. His client, he said, was still running his business and was in the habit of making charitable donations, mainly to children’s charities.

Sheriff Ross told Munro what he had done was a deliberate crime of dishonesty. “You stole money from HMRC. Given the level of that, I started out considering custody. I have decided not to do that, largely because you have a business and employ other innocent parties and no other record of dishonesty”.

He added: “Unpaid work in the community would have a significant effect on your business and on the other innocent parties.

“Having regard to that and your income, I fine you £10,000, but because of your early plea of guilty, I reduce that to £7500”. Munro was given three months to pay the fine.

Anne-Marie Gordon, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: “This was a well thought-out fraud, making big profits for Munro.

“He pocketed the VAT he charged his customers, lodging it into a personal bank account.

“He knew full well that by submitting false VAT returns he was breaking the law at the expense of the UK taxpayer and depriving public services of much needed funds.

“He now has to pay the price for his criminal activities.

“Tax fraud is a serious offence and I urge anyone with information about people or businesses involved in tax fraud to contact the HMRC Tax Evasion hotline on 0800 788 887.”