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Self-assessment tax fraud leads to two year jail sentence

Self-assessment tax fraud leads to two year jail sentence

A South African has been sent to jail after being found guilty of a £1 million self-assessment income tax fraud.

HMRC discovered that Lawrence Goldberg used virtual offices to register in excess of 50 companies throughout the UK. The companies posed as nominated tax agents and through them, Goldberg sent the Revenue more than 2,000 fraudulent tax returns. As well as using the identities of innocent people, he invented people and used their details on the returns.

When his operation was at its peak, Goldberg was sending HMRC about 500 false returns a week. Most of the fraudulent returns were discovered and not processed, but Goldberg did successfully claim more than £1 million which he deposited in offshore bank accounts.

Goldberg originally conducted his operations from London, but after a brief stay in Portugal he went on the run to South Africa. He pleaded guilty to the charges against him and was jailed for two years.

HMRC’s assistant director of criminal investigation, John Pointing, said this was a huge scale fraud against public funds and the Revenue will not sit back while criminals such as Goldberg steal honest taxpayers’ money.

Meanwhile, HMRC has warned taxpayers to be vigilant if they receive emails saying they are due a tax refund.

According to the Revenue, there has been a 300% increase in ‘phishing’ emails over the past 12 months. These generally provide a link to a replica HMRC website where recipients are asked to provide details of their debit or credit card. Criminals then use the information for identity and financial theft.

Last month, HMRC received reports of nearly 24,000 of these fraudulent emails and it is helping to close down about 100 fake websites every month.

© 2011 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Image: Jail cell painting by ABN2

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