You can run but you can’t hide – HMRC catches up with fleeing tax fraudster

A tax fraudster who attempted to avoid justice by selling up and leaving the country, has been jailed for more than 3 years.

HMRC’s tax investigation team tracked down 49 year old Stephen McKenzie, the owner of a video conferencing company, who fled the UK after faking documents and making up figures on his tax returns to defraud the tax man of £500,000.

McKenzie, who was the sole director of ICU (Global) Ltd, inflated the value of his purchases and drew up false invoices to generate VAT repayments he wasn’t entitled to.

An HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation found McKenzie, from Middlesex, carried out the scam between October 2008 and March 2013 before closing down his business, selling his home and fleeing to Ireland, leaving a false address in America.

However, the fraudster finally came unstuck when he was arrested by HMRC investigators after landing at Leeds Bradford Airport in July 2016, en-route to the Greek island of Zante.

Martin Brown, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: "As McKenzie found out, there is no hiding place for tax fraudsters. He manipulated the accounts of his business and drew up false invoices to steal taxpayers’ money. This is money that should have been paying for vital public services.

“HMRC takes tax fraud extremely seriously, and will take action where we find it to ensure no one is beyond our reach.”

McKenzie admitted VAT fraud at Southwark Crown Court and was sentenced to three years and nine months in jail. Confiscation proceedings are underway to recoup the proceeds of his crime.

Dr Anjulika Salhan, a director and tax investigation specialist with Salhan Accountants commented: “HMRC has a dedicated criminal investigation unit with far reaching powers. As this case demonstrates, it takes a particularly dim view of individuals who intentionally set out to commit tax fraud.

“Whilst there are some individuals who will deliberately plot to defraud HMRC, equally many business owners unwittingly fall foul of the tax man’s rules and find themselves under the spotlight of an investigation.

“If expert tax investigation advice is not sought urgently a hefty fine or – worse still – prosecution through the criminal courts could result.

“We have represented a number of individuals who, for a variety of reasons, have found themselves in breach of HMRC regulations. As with all HMRC matters, tax investigations need to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.”

At Salhan Accountants, we work extremely hard for clients subjected to a taxation investigation. We not only clarify the issues and the process, but come up with solutions too.

Our experience, professional reputation, forensic attention to detail and negotiating skills mean we are well-placed to achieve positive outcomes.