VAT registrations up for sale to fraudsters

Companies with nothing more than a VAT registration are being offered up to
£50,000 to part with their businesses, in the latest attempt by carousel
fraudsters to get round a crackdown on the fraud.

The UK government is facing difficulties on the issue this week, as European
finance ministers such as France’s Thierry Breton threaten to veto the UK’s key
measure to beat carousel fraud.

UK tax authority HM Revenue & Customs introduced stricter procedures on
VAT registrations earlier this year, which have led to some waiting up to 12
weeks to get hold of registrations.

Stephen Coleclough, indirect tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said he
was aware of one case where a company had been offered between £20,000 and
£50,000 for a company.

A spokeswoman for HMRC said the authorities were noticing the trend as well
as two others: ‘There is hijacking of companies, using their VAT details, and
then the use of VAT numbers of registered companies with their full knowledge.’

Allowing fraudsters to use VAT numbers is a criminal offence. HMRC said that
the companies involved were being paid a weekly or monthly fee for the use of
VAT numbers: ‘We will prosecute,’ the spokeswoman said.

Related reading