Northern Ireland news

Suspended sentence for tax fraud

Smart was handed a suspended jail term at Belfast Crown Court

A BELFAST man has received a suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to fraud in excess of £100,000.

Mark Smart (52) of Shaw's Road, Belfast, was VAT registered as a sole trader selling fish door to door.

He claimed expenses, in the region of £80,000, for business sales of only £10,000 on his 2014/2015 tax return.

When interviewed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers in October 2017, he said he travelled by car on a ferry from Dublin to Whitstable once every two to three weeks but was unable to provide any additional information about his business. He was also unable to provide any records.

HMRC investigators found that in addition to the VAT fraud, Smart was submitting fraudulent annual Tax Credit claims to receive a regular amount of working tax credit each month.

He pleaded guilty to VAT, Tax Credit and money laundering charges at Laganside Crown Court on July 17 this year.

He has now been handed an 18 month custodial sentence, suspended for three years.

"Smart stole from the taxpayer and thought he could simply pocket the money, which should have been funding vital public services. He was wrong and is now paying the price," said Steve Tracey, Assistant Director of the HMRC Fraud Investigation Service.

"Most people pay the tax they owe, when they owe it, but a small minority think they are above the law. No matter how well you think you’ve covered your tracks, nobody is beyond our reach."

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