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Gloucestershire Business News

Gloucestershire chartered accountant tried to cheat the Inland Revenue out of £19,000 in VAT

At Gloucester crown court yesterday (9th August) Edward Humphrey, 39, who runs iCount Solutions South West Ltd, admitted two charges of fraud and was sentenced to 8 months imprisonment suspended for a year.

He was also ordered to pay compensation of £3,342 to HMRC.

The court heard that when facing financial difficulties Humphrey, of North Lodge, Edgeworth, nr Stroud, pretended he was due a VAT refund on business premises he had bought from the Ecotricity company.

When HMRC looked into his claim he supplied false paperwork and emails to investigators to try to prove he had indeed made the purchase of a unit from the Stroud-based alternative energy company.

Passing sentence on Humphrey, Judge Michael Cullum said "You have risked everything you hold dear to try to extract money from HMRC.

"You tried to extract £16,600 from them whereas in fact you owed them a total of £2,500.

"You wanted your family to be able to thrive from fraud while others in society have to put up with any financial hardship that comes along.

"When confronted by the Revenue, you compounded things by continuing to behave dishonestly. Lying and dishonesty seems to be your first port of call - that is a bad thing for a chartered accountant!

"You have brought your profession into disrepute and they will view what you have done with extreme seriousness."

The charges Humphrey admitted were fraudulently claiming to HMRC that an invoice from Ecotricity for the purchase of a unit was genuine and falsely representing that emails which purported to be between himself and Ecotricity were genuine.

Prosecutor Alec Small said Humphrey is sole director of his accountancy firm. For the period July-Sept 2015 he submitted a VAT return showing he had purchased a unit from Ecotricity and was due a £16,667 refund of VAT on the purchase.

Unluckily for him he was randomly chosen for a check on his claim and asked to supply the relevant paperwork. He sent in six invoices, one of which was not legitimate, said Mr Small.

It appeared to be from Ecotricity but when it was checked the head of finance at Ecotricity said it was false. It was printed in a different style to their invoices, it had the wrong VAT number for the firm and the name Ecotricity had even been misspelt!

When Humphrey was challenged he claimed that a man called Keith Williams was to blame. He said 'Williams' had contacted him claiming to be from Ecotricity's legal department and offering to sell him a business property.

He said he had paid the money to Mr Williams and now realised he was himself a victim of fraud.

"He provided an email chain as evidence of the fraud he said had taken place," said Mr Small. "But copies of his bank statement were checked and there was no such purchase ever made by him.

"The phone number he said was Mr Williams' was a number which in fact had never even been allocated by O2."

Daniella Manson, for Humphrey, said he felt shame, remorse and embarassment at what he had done. He had not brought any character references to court to assist him because he had felt unable to tell anyone what he had done.

"As sole director of his company he will no longer be able to continue because of this conviction," she said. "He has a wife and an eight year old daughter - his wife works for the company doing book-keeping."

Asked by Judge Cullum why Humphrey had committed the offences, Ms Manson said "It is linked to the difficulties his business was facing. In 2014 a major client had financial difficulties and looked to be in danger of folding. If it had folded he would have gone under with it and that was the main reason for these offences.

"Ironically, the business is now doing well and is stable."

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