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Paper trail leads bluffing businessman to jail

Press Release   •   Apr 06, 2017 12:29 BST

Peter Duffield

A millionaire businessman, who failed to pay any tax on his earnings because he wasn’t a “paperwork person”, has been sentenced to four years for evading more than £1.3m in tax after he was investigated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Peter Charles Duffield, 62, from Orpington, ran two profitable businesses - a 50-fleet haulage business in Essex and a shooting club in Dartford - but didn’t submit a single tax return on his earnings, including profits from the sale of three properties.

The investigation found that gun-enthusiast Duffield had failed to declare his earnings despite his bookkeeper and accountant urging him to do so. When he was arrested at his home in June 2015, he told investigating officers that he hadn’t submitted his Self Assessment tax returns for the last seven years because he wasn’t a “paperwork person”. This was despite a prior warning from HMRC under civil legislation to keep his tax affairs in order. Arresting officers also seized more than £20,000 in cash found in his car and wardrobe.

The fraud was uncovered by an HMRC property taskforce, set up to identify those who avoid paying tax on property transactions. Duffield hadn’t paid capital gains tax on a property he’d sold, breaching an earlier agreement that gave him the opportunity to get his tax affairs in order.

HMRC officers discovered that while Duffield had kept meticulous business records, and ensured that his bookkeeper and accountant were notified of all receipts and earnings, he never signed or posted the tax returns they prepared on his behalf, claiming that he thought they had submitted the paperwork.

Officers discovered Duffield had spent the stolen tax on extravagant lifestyle expenses, including mortgages on two properties, family holidays to Marbella, Rolex watches, investments in phosphate mining in Iraq, a gun collection and at least nine vehicles. Among the vehicles he owned were six Land Rovers, some with personalised number plates. The total value of his tax fraud is £1,364,813.26.

Paul Barton, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“Duffield could have avoided jail, and was given every opportunity to get his tax affairs in order. However, despite warnings and advice from professionals, Duffield showed a blatant disregard for the tax system and funded a lavish lifestyle at taxpayers’ expense.

“Duffield thought he was above the law, but he was wrong. If you know of anyone committing tax fraud you can report them by calling our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

His Honour Judge Gordon commented on sentencing that, “you knew full well what your obligations were. Your evasion was deliberate and dishonest, choosing instead to do the bare minimum and then only when backed into a corner”.

A confiscation hearing to recover the proceeds of his crime will follow.

Notes for Editors

1.Peter Charles Duffield (DOB 6/2/1955) of Crofton Lane, Orpington, failed to submit tax returns or pay tax on his earnings between 2007 and 2014, and was found guilty of Cheating the Public Revenue, contrary to Common Law at the Old Bailey after a trial on 13 March 2017. He was sentenced to four years, to serve two years in prison and two on licence, at the same court today.

2.HMRC taskforces target specific high-risk sectors where there is a risk that some are not paying the tax they owe. Since taskforces began in May 2011, more than 140 taskforces have been launched, bringing in more than £540 million.

3.Taskforces bring together various HMRC compliance and enforcement teams for intensive bursts of activity targeted at specific sectors and locations where there is evidence of high risk of tax evasion and fraud. The teams visit traders to examine their records and carry out other investigations.

4. A photo is available on HMRC’s Flickr channel

5. Follow HMRC on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice.

Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.

HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.

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