One day all of the billions being spent fighting the pandemic are going to have to be repaid, and it will be all of us as taxpayers who foot the bill.
So now seems like a good time to start shaming the business cheats who fiddle the system to line their own pockets.
Sadly, there are loads of them, with tax offences being the most common reason for someone being banned from being a director.
Insolvency Service figures for the last financial year show that out of 1,346 director disqualifications, more than half of the total – 711 cases – were for “unfair treatment of the Crown”, in other words, HM Revenue and Customs.
“Unfair treatment of the Crown can range from cases where a director had made a conscious decision to pay other creditors and not HM Revenue and Customs, to cases where a director has defrauded or attempted to defraud HM Revenue and Customs,” says the latest Insolvency Service annual report.
Since 2016 HMRC has prosecuted 4,123 people and last year raised an extra £5billion by tackling non-compliance.
Only a few cases ever get much attention. There was Dominic Chappell, who notoriously bought BHS from Philip Green’s Arcadia empire for £1 and was jailed in November for six years for evading tax of £584,000.
The cheats usually get away with little publicity, something I intend changing as of today, because I don’t think that tax dodgers are treated with the contempt they deserve.
They’re thought of a bit like drink-drivers were 30 years ago – no worse than carefree rebels.
Now drink-drivers are rightly despised and the same should go for anyone who deprives the country of money that could pay for doctors, nurses, ventilators and vaccines.
Take 67-year-old Clive Waters who ran a food wholesale firm and last week at Taunton Crown Court was jailed for 26 months for fraudulently claiming more than £600,000 in VAT repayments.
The case has only been reported in his local Somerset newspaper – until now.
“Tax fraud is not a victimless crime,” said a spokesman for HMRC after the hearing. “It steals funding from our vital public services.”
Last week brothers Carlos and Fernando De La Cruz Vidal were each banned from being directors for six years.
They ran a Mexican restaurant in fashionable Portobello Road, West London, called Santo, and over three years understated their takings by £173,000 and overstated the amount of non-taxable earnings.
“Customers have a right to expect that the tax they pay on their food is given to the tax authorities,” said Lawrence Zussman, deputy head of insolvent investigations at the Insolvency Service.
“Instead, Carlos and Fernando De La Cruz Vidal substantially under-declared the tax due.”
Another recently banned restaurant boss is 49-year-old Jose Cacio, who proudly posted on Facebook a picture of former Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw visiting his pizzeria in Mitcham, South London.
Cacio deliberately under declared VAT, leaving the taxman £140,000 out of pocket and got a six-year disqualification.
Some bosses have no excuse for not knowing the rules – like 61-year-old Leslie Eriera who’s an accountant who didn’t produce accounts for his company Swift Supplies & Services Ltd in Ilford, Essex.
The 61-year-old was given a seven-year directorship ban after the company shut down.
An investigation showed that it had unpaid tax liabilities but had paid £1,183,517 to unknown third parties, £161,640 to a connected business, and even siphoned away £40,000 from its bank account after the company was presented with a winding-up petition.
Alex Stead and Jennifer Everett were both given 11 year directorship bans after their Hull business Pink Innovations submitted false VAT returns for six years, resulting in estimated VAT liabilities at liquidation of almost £3million.
Martins Civzelis of Omega Construction Limited of Leeds got a seven year ban for fraudulent VAT evasion. When the company was liquidated HMRC, the only creditor, was owed £1,710,247.
Jane Roscoe was a director of Linxs First Choice Scaffolding of Skelmersdale, which submitted false VAT returns over three years, leaving the taxman owed £292,087.
The company also owed £22,665 in respect of Corporation Tax, £13,963 for PAYE and £1,461 for penalties and interest. Ms Roscoe has been banned from being a director for six years.
Michael Martin was the director of ADM Skips of south east London, which never handed over its accounts to the liquidator.
As a result there’s no knowing how much owes in tax, or any explanation for the £1.1million that was moved from its bank account, including foreign currency payments of £448,000. Last week he got a seven year ban from acting as a director.
I could go on. And will – people like this deserve wider exposure. I’ll be highlighting more like them next week