Essex: Charity began at home for tax dodger jailed for �277,000 fraud

AN Essex businessman and charity benefactor, who dodged paying �277,000 in tax to fund his lifestyle, love of gambling and expensive cars, has been jailed for two years.

Despite his good deeds helping the poor, tax cheat Patrick Larkin, of Rayne Road, Braintree, decided charity began at home when he embezzled the VAT from his business over a nine-year period.

The 47-year-old traded as P Larkin Interiors, a shop fitting and partitioning business, which he ran from home.

Larkin - who was imprisoned at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday - will now have to repay the money he fiddled or face a further three years in prison, after a confiscation order was made under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

A large portion of the money - �200,000 - must be returned within seven days, the remainder within 90 days.

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Larkin was known to help a charitable organisation which builds houses for the poor in South Africa.

A financial investigation by HM Customs and Revenue uncovered what it said was “a systematic and wholesale fraud” from mid-2002 until July 2011.

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Over the nine-year period Larkin charged his customers VAT, but failed to pay any of the tax owed to HMRC, although his turnover was well in excess of the VAT threshold.

The fraud was uncovered in June 2011 when HMRC officers examined Larkin’s business records.

They discovered that although he was using a VAT registration number on his invoices and charging his customers VAT, he was not registered to pay the tax.

Officers visited Larkin’s home address in November last year. He was arrested on suspicion of fraud and his home searched.

Sentencing Larkin, Judge John Devaux said: “Whilst acknowledging character reports the fraud was sustained over a long period and involved cheating HM Revenue and misleading his clients. It was a serious course of offending and serious and persistent conduct”

After the hearing Paul Barton, assistant director of criminal investigation from HMRC, said: “This was a systematic and blatant tax fraud which funded a comfortable lifestyle, including refurbishing his home.

“Catching this fraudster has prevented him from continuing to cheat the taxpayer out of large sums of money.

“It is just not acceptable in this day and age to avoid paying your dues. This sentence will send a clear message to all tax fraudsters – it is not a matter of if you will be caught, but when.”

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