THE WIFE of a Sutherland joiner who admitted defrauding HMRC of £70,000 by submitting false VAT returns on his behalf has been warned by a sheriff she could face jail.
Wendy Gunn (61) of Buena Vista, Rearquhar, Dornoch confessed to police that the figures she declared were made up when she and her husband James were cautioned and interviewed by HMRC Officers.
Depute fiscal Michelle Molley told Sheriff Gordon Fleetwood at Inverness Sheriff Court today that Mr Gunn clearly understood little of the VAT requirements and was uncertain whether it was his accountant or his wife who had submitted the returns.
Wendy Gunn admitted submitting the false returns between January 1, 2010 and December 30, 2014 and obtaining £70,000 by fraud.
Ms Molley said James Gunn had been registered since 1987 for VAT as a sole proprietor trading as a joiner.
His wife retired from her employment with Highland Council in 2006 and at some stage HMRC received consent from Mr Gunn allowing his wife to deal with his tax affairs including both VAT and self-assessment. Self-assessment is reported annually while VAT returns are submitted quarterly.
The fiscal said until 2010 income declared on VAT returns matched that on self-assessment forms but from 2010 they began to diverge.
HMRC were satisfied that returns up to the end of 2009 were accurate.
But subsequent returns raised concerns.
“In James Gunn’s 2009 returns his declared turnover was £111,028 and his declared output was £128,629; but in 2011 his declared turnover was £64,193 whilst his output was £139,276,” said Ms Molley.
“That would suggest that Mr Gunn had been trading to a higher level than usual, but the self-assessment returns for the same period showed a lower profit than before as Mr Gunn had not been trading due to ill health.”
Ms Molley said the obvious differences in figures in various forms resulted in the HMRC investigation and in June 2015 the couple were detained and taken to Burnett Road Police Station in Inverness where they were cautioned and interviewed by HMRC officers.
“Mr Gunn clearly understood little of the VAT requirements and was uncertain whether it was his accountant or his wife who submitted returns.”
Wendy Gunn confirmed that the accountants submitted the self-assessment tax returns and calculated turnover and she had completed the VAT returns.
When asked if the figures in the VAT returns were correct or if they had been falsified she confirmed that the input and output figures had been made up.
“She did confirm that she was aware that these false figures she had entered would result in repayments to which her husband’s business was not entitled.”
Willie Young solicitor asked for the case to be deferred for background reports and Sheriff Fleetwood said he would do so with some reluctance given the figures before him and the length of time over which the offence was committed.
“I think it’s fair to put you on notice you could be facing custody.,” he told Gunn.
“You have got £70,000 of public money you are not entitled to and the court has to treat that very seriously.”
Sentence was deferred until March 8.