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HMRC launches five VAT taskforces in the Midlands

HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) plan to recoup over £100m in fraudulent VAT payments across the Midlands has seen the authority launch five taskforces in areas it has detected a high risk of tax evasion.
The new taskforces will tackle fraudulent VAT activity in the Nottingham, Birmingham, Stoke, Coventry and Wolverhampton areas.
The department confirmed VAT repayment taskforces have already retrieved more than £22 million across the UK since 2012. 70 taskforces have been launched since 2011 overall and a further 30 are planned.
Jennie Granger, director general of enforcement and compliance at HMRC, said: "HMRC taskforces are deployed in sectors and areas where we’ve detected a high risk of tax evasion. People being targeted by our taskforces have no intention of playing by the rules and could end up facing a heavy fine or even a criminal conviction.
"In a previous VAT taskforce a trader who claimed to be exporting vehicles and second-hand white goods to Africa was found to have fraudulently reclaimed over £500,000 of input tax.
"He was sentenced to four and a half years’ imprisonment and disqualified from being a company director for six years.
"If you haven’t declared all of your income, we will find you and investigate."
In another case in point, HMRC recently announced that a Belfast-based builder, who pocketed £73,000 of VAT that he had charged his customers but failed to pass on to HMRC, has been sentenced to 18 months, suspended for two years.
John McDowell, aged 56, from Belfast, pleaded guilty and was sentenced last week at Laganside Court.
Mike Parkinson, assistant director for criminal investigation at HMRC, said: "McDowell knew he was breaking the law when he deliberately failed to pay his taxes.
"HMRC takes tax fraud extremely seriously and anyone deliberately choosing to evade the taxes they owe should expect not only a heavy fine, but possibly a criminal prosecution as well."

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