The couple from Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland, have been jailed for siphoning £4.6m through false accounting in order to avoid paying taxes. The couple have been jailed for a total of 6 years and also been ordered to pay back almost £4m in a confiscation order.
Mary and Patrick Small, aged 50 and 56 respectively, traded as Greystone Builders Merchants and used offshore accounts in the Isle of Man and money laundered through property developments in order to dodge taxes. They submitted false accounts, including personal tax and VAT Returns, to HMRC in a deliberate attempt to disguise the true extent of their profits.
The Smalls built 23 houses in Northern Ireland, including their own, most of which remained empty as well as dealing in high value antiques and jewellery.
During a search of the Smalls’ main residence, Customs officials found £492,228 hidden in a safe under the floor of the home.
They also, despite enjoying a lavish lifestyle, claimed family tax credits after declaring their joint annual earnings were less than £30,000.
Judge Anthony Hart, at Belfast Crown Court, said that Mr Small was ‘prepared in a dishonest and unedifying fashion to shift as much of the blame on to his wife as he could’ and jailed him for three and a half years. Mrs Small was jailed for two and a half years after the judge considered her co-operation throughout the case, her genuine remorse and the effects her imprisonment would have upon her three children.
In all, Mrs Small admitted three changes of cheating HMRC and nine charges of false accounting. Mr Small admitted two charges of cheating.
A spokeswoman for HMRC said:-
“The Smalls were stealing taxpayers’ money over many years and clearly had no issue with enjoying the benefits of our public services whilst not contributing towards them Even £2 million stashed in offshore accounts didn’t deter them from claiming tax credits.
Income tax and VAT fraud are not victimless fiddles and the days are long gone when hiding assets offshore was seen as a safe bet for evading UK taxes. Anyone deliberately setting out to cheat the system by not paying the right amount of tax is taking a huge risk, as we will pursue and bring them to justice”.