A civil servant whose job involved teaching HMRC staff about the intricacies of tax credits has been convicted of conning taxpayers out of more than £15,000 – in tax credits.
Fiona Lynch, who quit her post with the taxman after her dishonesty was discovered, pleaded guilty to fraud.
She was ordered to do 300 hours of unpaid work, put under social work supervision for three years and ordered to pay compensation of £15,200 in full to HMRC by two months before the end of her supervision order.
A court heard the mother-of-two blatantly claimed the cash for five years after filling in a form telling the tax authorities that she was a single parent and had no other income apart from her salary.
The truth was that from 30 November 2010 until 25 November 2015 the 40-year-old was living as husband and wife with her partner John Balmer in her terraced home in Livingston, West Lothian.
Mr Balmer – who, ironically, also worked for HMRC from 2011 onwards – was contributing to the accused’s household bills from his own civil service salary.
Livingston Sheriff Court was told that Lynch had suffered severe financial problems which compelled her to declare herself bankrupt in 2012.
She came out of sequestration in 2015 with all her debts cleared off, but continued to claim thousands of pounds in tax credits to which she wasn’t entitled as a “way out” of her difficulties.
Despite she and her partner both getting other jobs, she hasn’t repaid a penny of her ill-gotten gains or save any money towards the debt, the court was told.
She admitted failing to advise HMRC officials of the change in her financial circumstances.
Neil Stewart, defending, told the court: “She said she’d been really stupid. She deeply regrets it.
“She accepts she’s taken from the public purse and she’s aware that this is not a victimless crime.”
Sheriff Martin Edington told her: “This is a very serious offence which involved planning and was perpetrated over a very lengthy period of time for a very substantial sum of money.
“I regard it as a considerable aggravation that you were employed by HMRC at the time and a further aggravation is that, during the time you defrauded this money, you were sequestrated and your debts – which you say were the reason for this fraud – were written off.”
He added: “You have repaid not one penny piece of this money nor saved anything.
“However, I have decided that you will repay this money and you will escape a prison sentence by the skin of your teeth.”