A FORMER HM REVENUE & CUSTOMS EMPLOYEE has been jailed for three-year years after he used his knowledge and expertise to defraud the taxman of nearly £360,000.
Malcolm MacLean, who had worked as national co-ordinator for the construction industry helpline at the HMRC's Washington office, was working as director of MacLean Fisher Tait Accounting and Taxation when he conducted the fraud.
MacLean, along with fellow directors Aiden Tait and David Fisher were arrested after HMRC investigators discovered they had falsified documents and manipulated their clients' accounts to cover up tax and Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) frauds.
The firm set up two companies - Workforce and MFT Utilities - claiming to be in the construction industry. They took on construction projects and then sub-contracted the building work to local self-employed tradesmen. All the tradesmen were clients of the accountancy firm, but had no knowledge that MacLean, Tait and Fisher were behind the contracts.
As the sub-contractors hired by Workforce and MFT Utilities Ltd were also clients of the accountancy firm, they were able to manipulate their clients' CIS returns to pay over less tax than was collected, pocketing a difference of £358,000.
MacLean, Tait and Fisher then tried to cover their tracks by manipulating their unsuspecting clients' end-of-year tax returns to hide the fraud, so they did not realise they had paid more in tax than they should have - with the directors of MacLean Fisher Tait pocketing the difference.
All three initially denied their involvement in the fraud, with Malcolm Maclean describing the companies' actions as "perfect tax planning", while the others told how they had "turned a blind eye to accounting anomalies because the rewards were lucrative".
HMRC's assistant director for criminal investigation Paul Rooney said: "This group are professionally trained accounting specialists who used their knowledge not only to defraud taxpayers but to rip off their own clients, assuming their knowledge would mean they could get away with it. That three professionals should conspire to abuse their clients' trust in this way to line their own pockets makes this fraud even more shocking.
"As accountants, they were well aware of the rules and were naive to think that they could simply bend them for their own illegal profit. Professionals who are caught cheating the system will face the full force of our powers and their sentences will serve as a stark deterrent to others in positions of trust."
MacLean was sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court to three years in prison after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing. In sentencing him, His Honour Judge Recorder Ekins said: "You meticulously planned this sophisticated fraud and I see your previous employment with HM Revenue and Customs as an aggravating feature to this crime."
Tait and Fisher were sentenced on 8 March and each received six months in prison, suspended for two years. They were each ordered to repay £65,000 within six months or face extra time in prison.
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