Belfast Telegraph

Suspended sentence for Strabane man who stole over £162k in tax scam

HMRC investigators became suspicious of Edwards.
HMRC investigators became suspicious of Edwards.

A Strabane bricklayer has been handed a two year suspended prison sentence after admitting stealing over £162k in a tax scam.

Joseph Edwards, 51, of Park Road, Strabane, pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of VAT and failing to pay Income Tax, Class 4 National Insurance Contributions and interest at Enniskillen Crown Court last month.

On Thursday he was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for three years, and was disqualified from being a company director for five years, at Dungannon Crown Court.

Despite being a sole trader Edwards operated as a building contractor, hiring up to eight workers at a time to carry out ground and brick work on building sites.

Under the Construction Industry Scheme, Edwards should have deducted Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions for each worker and passed it to HMRC – he never did. Instead he invoiced his customers, receiving gross payments into his bank account which he then used to pay his workers cash in hand.

HMRC investigators became suspicious when monthly returns showed £334,585 had been paid to a sole trader from 6 April 2015 to 5 April 2016. Officers also found he had submitted false VAT returns to get his hands on a further £61,530.00 he wasn’t entitled to.

Edwards evaded £162,099 in Income Tax, National Insurance Contributions and VAT.

Steve Tracey Assistant Director at HMRC's Fraud Investigation Service said that Edwards stole the money through "pure greed".

“Edwards blatantly refused to pay the tax he owed, pocketing a six-figure sum through sheer greed to fund his own lifestyle while his actions placed an unfair advantage over the honest competitors within the industry. He knowingly deprived public services of vital funding and now has a criminal record for tax fraud," Mr Tracey said.

“If you believe someone is benefitting from tax fraud please report them to HMRC online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

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