Fake accountant guilty of £100k tax fraud jailed

A former Bradford city councillor who styled himself an accountant despite having no formal qualifications has been jailed for defrauding clients of over £100,000 via false income tax and VAT refunds following an HMRC investigation.

Robert Payne, who served as an elected councillor for Bradford City Council, was arrested by HMRC officers in March 2011. He had declared that almost all of his clients were operating at a financial loss, and were entitled to tax refunds, but the investigation found that the majority had actually been making a profit.

Payne had set himself up as an accountant in 2001 and went on to manipulate his unsuspecting clients' accounts to falsely represent their financial affairs, faking documents to reclaim VAT and income tax payments, which he then kept for himself. He also set up a variety of companies for the purpose of carrying out the frauds, including Airedale Accounting Group Ltd, Airedale Company Formations Ltd and Airedale Leasing Ltd.

Payne produced fake invoices and VAT records to support his tax refund claims and even continued while serving a five month prison sentence for an animal cruelty offence, by duping a friend into making VAT claims on his behalf. When HMRC refused to pay out what was suspected to be a fraudulent claim, Payne threatened the department with the intervention of his local MP, in an attempt to push the payment through.

Following the investigation, Payne pleaded guilty to three charges of tax fraud and three counts of acting as a company director while disqualified. He has received a two-year prison sentence and been disqualified from being a company director for six years.

Jo Tyler, HMRC assistant director of criminal investigation, said: 'Robert Payne has held positions of trust in the Bradford community, including that of a local councillor. He quite clearly knows the difference between right and wrong and committed this fraud purely for personal gain. Our investigation led us to believe that Payne's accountancy business was set up solely as a ruse to steal money from his unsuspecting staff, clients and taxpayers.'

Pat Sweet |Reporter, Accountancy Daily [2010-2021]

Pat Sweet was the former online reporter at Accountancy Daily and contributor to the monthly Accountancy magazine, pub...

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