An Ashington resident who set up phoney businesses to steal more than £200,000 in VAT has been jailed.
Edward Marsh, of Eighth Row, ran a legitimate eco-boiler fitting company called Paid 2 Heat Ltd – but he set-up three fake businesses to steal VAT, an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) revealed.
The 52-year-old, who submitted 52 monthly VAT returns for his fake companies between December 2015 and May 2017 to claim £208,995 in repayments he was not entitled to, admitted VAT fraud at Durham Crown Court on July 10 this year.
Marsh was sentenced to 26 months in prison and banned from being a company director for five years at the same court on Friday.
HMRC officers went to his former home and business premises in Castle Eden, County Durham, in July 2017 for a standard VAT assurance visit.
During the visit, he admitted having only one genuine business and the other companies – Energi 4 Ever Ltd, Paid 2 Power Ltd and Paid 2 Go Green Ltd – never traded.
Marsh said he stole VAT to fund a new business.
Cheryl Burr, assistant director, HMRC Fraud Investigation Service, said: “Marsh was wrong to think he could get away with stealing taxpayers’ money.
“This is money that should be used to fund our vital public services and not his new business venture. He pocketed enough money to pay the salaries for 10 new police officers for a year.
“HMRC will not tolerate VAT fraud and we will continue to pursue criminals like Marsh who think stealing from the public purse is an acceptable way to do business.
“I encourage anyone with information on this type of fraud to report it to HMRC online, or contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
Information about any type of tax fraud can be reported to HMRC online at www.gov.uk/report-an-unregistered-trader-or-business