Jail for lawyer who 'did not know' tax fraud was illegal

A barrister who claimed he did not know non-payment of tax was against the law has been jailed for 18 months, following an HMRC investigation

Peter Moss, 61, from Hawarden, cheated HMRC out of £138,500 by failing to submit VAT or self assessment returns.

The lawyer had been registered as a sole trader since 1985 and, despite visits from officers in the past, failed to submit 26 VAT returns and did not submit any self assessment tax returns to HMRC after 1999.

When interviewed Moss admitted knowing that he should have submitted VAT and self assessment returns, but said that he did not know it was an offence not to do so. He claimed he was in debt with a number of people and responds to ‘whoever shouts the loudest’.

Leeds Crown Court heard that Moss mainly defended criminals, earning in excess of £600,000 between 2008 and 2016. Although he had previously entered a voluntary agreement to declare his earnings and fulfil his tax paying responsibilities, he still did not pay any tax or National Insurance contributions.

Moss was found guilty of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of Income Tax Contrary to Section 106A of the Taxes Management Act 1970 and being knowingly concerned in fraudulent evasion of VAT contrary to Section 72(1) of the Value Added Tax Act 1994 at Leeds Crown Court on 21 June 2018.

Paul Maybury, assistant director of the fraud investigation service at HMRC, said: ‘There is no doubt Moss was aware of his responsibilities as he had received previous warnings. He was abusing the tax system and depriving public services of vital funding to give himself an unfair advantage over his honest competitors.’

Ben Reid, a specialist prosecutor in the Crown Prosecution Service's specialist fraud division, said: ‘Moss knew what was expected of him, having been registered as a sole trader since 1985, but still ignored the rules to avoid paying tax. The CPS worked closely with HMRC to prosecute this fraud and although Moss denied the offences, evidence presented in court saw him convicted.’

Report by Rob Munro

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