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Blackpool shopkeeper must repay £250,000 in stolen VAT

A Blackpool shopkeeper, who was jailed for tax fraud after false VAT returns were submitted to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), has been ordered to repay £250,000.

Maureen Carpenter, 52, of Leamington Road, was jailed for 18 months in February this year, after an HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation revealed that fraudulent VAT returns had been submitted for her son’s business Booze Booze Booze Ltd, in a bid to evade paying the correct amount of VAT.

Now she has been ordered to repay £250,000 within three months or face another three years in prison and still have to pay the money.

A court ruled that Carpenter lived a criminal lifestyle with assets beyond any legitimate income she had declared on tax returns. As a result Carpenter was ordered to repay more than the £107,000 of VAT that she was convicted of stealing in February 2018.

The court was told Carpenter’s assets include part ownership of several residential properties in the UK and a holiday home at Kissimmee in Florida.

Martin Lynagh, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“Carpenter tried and failed to cheat the public purse. Her crimes put her behind bars and now she’ll repay what she stole. If she doesn’t, she’ll spend more time in prison and still owe the money.

“HMRC will not tolerate criminals who create an uneven playing field for legitimate businesses. Our actions don’t stop once someone is convicted and we will always look to reclaim the stolen money. Anyone with information about tax fraud should report it to HMRC online or contact our hotline on 0800 788 887.”

The fraud was uncovered by HMRC after an investigation revealed Carpenter only declared sales from the shop’s opening time to 5pm but she actually traded until 11pm. Officers found cashbooks written by Carpenter, which showed the true daily takings during a search of the shop on Central Drive.

She admitted the fraud in September 2017 and was jailed in February 2018.

At a confiscation hearing at Preston Crown Court on 27 July 2018, Carpenter was ordered to repay the money from her current assets that include the houses in Blackpool and holiday home in Florida.

Information about any type of tax fraud can be reported to HMRC online at www.gov.uk/report-an-unregistered-trader-or-business.

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