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Barrister jailed after VAT fraud

A BARRISTER WHO CHARGED CLIENTS VAT faces 18 months in jail after he failed to pass on around £80,000 in the levy to the taxman.

Edward Paul Agbaje was de-registered for VAT by HMRC in February 2005 after failing to submit complete VAT returns dating back to 1994, meaning he was barred from trading above the VAT threshold, which was £58,000 in 2005.

Agbaje, though, continued to trade, paying no VAT from 2 February 2005 to 17 March 2012. He used his invalid VAT number on invoices during the period and collected more than £59,000 in VAT on fees from clients, pocketing the money rather than passing it on to HMRC.

Instead, Agbaje claimed he had gambled the proceeds.

Self-employed and operating out of London’s Gray’s Inn chambers, Agbaje has not filed income tax returns since 2007, running up a tax bill of more than £18,000.

His activities were discovered by HMRC during routine VAT visit to his chambers, when it was found that he was using his old, de-registered VAT number on invoices.

Operating in “short, sharp bursts of activity”, in targeted areas of the country and perceived high-risk industries, the department is currently operating a legal profession taskforce in London.

Since May 2011, HMRC has launched more than 30 taskforces across the country and claims it is on target to collect £50m from the first 12.

He was convicted on two counts of cheating the public revenue at the Old Bailey.

HMRC assistant director for criminal investigation Andrew Sackey said: “Declaring and paying VAT due is a legal requirement – not a lifestyle choice – so we are pleased that justice has been served.

“As a barrister, Agbaje should have known better than to try to cheat the system. He thought he was above the law but HMRC will not stand by while criminals try to cheat the taxpayer.”

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