VAT fraud has been a thorn in the side of HMRC ever since the first imposition of the tax by Government. It has been seen as a target by Organised Crime Groups, both international and domestic and by opportunist individuals. The exchequer loses billions of pounds per annum to this fraud and as a consequence HMRC devote substantial resources to combat it.
Unfortunately HMRC seem to operate with the mind-set that there are no “grey areas” and should you be selected for investigation following the raising of suspicion, you and if necessary your business will be subjected to in depth scrutiny by Criminal Investigation Officers. Just occasionally HMRC may decide to pursue an investigation of a civil nature requiring absolute truthfulness and accuracy in your disclosures to them. This is a separate topic and you may well benefit from the services of a skilled accountant in addition to a Solicitor in this case. At Cartwright King, we can provide both.
There are many ways of committing VAT fraud from the well publicised Carousel (MTIC) frauds, through Construction Industry Frauds down to simply false invoicing or not charging VAT when it is chargeable. The common denominator is that if VAT should be charged and collected for payment to HMRC and it is not then this may be a fraud on the VAT system and therefore VAT Fraud. Other ancillary offences relating to the VAT system are such as failing to give security when required and making false statements or producing false accounts.
If you have been accused of committing VAT fraud, it is in your best interests to get in touch with a solicitor at your earliest convenience and we will deal with your case from the onset. We are available to represent you anywhere within the country and will defend your case for you in court if necessary.
Free Initial Telephone Consultation
If you require any legal advice or if you would like a no obligation, free initial telephone discussion, then please call us on 0808 168 5550. Alternatively you can email our Fraud Solicitors on email@example.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
How are HMRC investigations conducted?
If HMRC suspects that a fraud has been committed they will conduct an investigation to find evidence of how, where and when the fraudulent activity may have taken place. This can be take the form of “a knock” in which HMRC officers conduct an immediate arrest and search of premises or it may take the form of an invitation to attend a Police Station for an interview. Whichever approach is taken, the investigation can cause a huge stress to individuals and their families as HMRC can apply for search warrants to search properties and cars, seize items such as phones, laptops and PC’s and documents.
If you are a business then they can and do download information from servers causing internal disruption. Powers are used to obtain phone records, and banking information. Bank Accounts can be frozen and assets restrained by Court Order. In addition you and associates may be subjected to continuing surveillance to monitor your activities. Whether you are or are not involved in VAT fraud the consequence of an investigation alone can be incredibly damaging to a persons’ reputation, their business, careers and family life.
What are the potential consequences?
After investigation HMRC submit a file to CPS who will make a decision on whether it is appropriate to charge anyone with a criminal offence. Often an investigation can last for some considerable time and equally it may also be some time before the Crown Prosecution Service makes a decision. This all adds to the stress following the arrest and interviews.
If you are unlucky enough to be selected for prosecution then you will normally be dealt with in The Crown Court. VAT offences can include:
- Cheating the public revenue
- Conspiracy to defraud
- Making False statements or providing false documents
In addition as VAT fraud involves acquiring money by criminal means then associated offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 can be charged. If you plead guilty or are found guilty following a trial, then in all but the minor offences it is almost inevitable that a sentence of imprisonment will follow. The sentences can range from a suspended sentence for minor involvement through to around 15 years for a major organiser of the fraud.
It is also inevitable that you will be considered for Confiscation proceedings following conviction. These proceedings are designed to take away the proceeds of crime but this is not restricted to what you may believe is your benefit from the crime. Confiscation is a huge topic in itself and if an order is made to confiscate your money or property (and sometimes depending on the circumstances that of your family) a default prison term can be imposed in addition to the penalty for the offence should you fail to pay the confiscation order.
How we can help
At Cartwright King, the solicitors in our Business Defence and Fraud Teams understand the stress and worry that can be caused by an allegation of involvement in VAT fraud and the potential long term consequences that can affect you and your family. We are available to support you throughout the entire process described above from investigation to Court.
Why choose us?
Our team of solicitors have a vast amount of experience in successfully defending individuals facing allegations of various types of fraud. Our teams and individuals are highly ranked in the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners guides. We have extensive experience in successfully defending businesses and individuals accused of fraud. It is our specialism and if you are accused of VAT fraud it is a specialist that you will need.
How to make contact
Our specialist Business Defence and Fraud Solicitors can provide advice across the country and are happy to meet at a time and location that suits you. We also have a network of offices in Birmingham, Bedford, Derby, Leeds, Leicester, London Temple, Luton, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Northampton, Nottingham and Sheffield.