North Berwick decorator Kenneth Wheatley’s £46,000 VAT con uncovered

By failing to register his VAT, a county painter and decorator swindled the taxman out of over £46,000. The painter, Kenneth Wheatley, cancelled his account and informed HMRC that he would be trading below the VAT threshold and in the end illegally held back £46,868.84. Wheatley, who runs a business that specialises in interiors and other services traded profitably while cashing his payment cheques at a money bureau so as not to pay the required taxes. Over a period of four years, the North Berwick business owner cashed his cheques at a cheque cashing firm, ClearACheque, which is located in the Edinburgh Tollcross area.

In a twist of irony, the 50-year-old business owner might have remained undetected had the police not raided the cheque cashing business on a different issue. The deception was only uncovered when paperwork relating to his activities were uncovered during the raid.

In a testimony heard at the Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Wheatley had run his VAT register from 1996 to 2010 when he cancelled it because his practical turnover would be less than the threshold for VAT. According to Ann McNeill, a fiscal depute, HMRC got the documents showing that Mr Wheatley was still trading as Interiors Plus when executing warrants for the cheque cashing business on a different issue. The police managed to get a warrant to search the accused home after the documents obtained revealed that Mr Wheatley had carried out 180 transactions amounting to £289,000. At this point, it was clear that the accused should have been paying VAT as he was still trading and the total amount of tax that would have been paid was £46,868.84.

According to the David Allan, the defending solicitor, the accused had made efforts to repay the money to HMRC but he hadn’t received any communication after sending a cheque for £500 which wasn’t cashed. Allan also stated that the accused had £36,000 which he was ready to pay immediately as he continued to work on his business which is said to employ two other people and the balance of £10,000 could be repaid at £1000 per month. Sentencing was deferred to the next month to allow for reports and a restriction of liberty assessment. Wheatley admitted to the crime of illegally evading paying the VAT amounting to £46,868.84 by cashing his cheques at money service bureaus and failing to submit returns to HMRC.

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