Hornchurch accountant handed suspended sentence after using friends’ tax returns to fraudulently claim £21,000 for himself

Lawrence made �21,000 from fraudulent self-assessment tax returns. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Lawrence made �21,000 from fraudulent self-assessment tax returns. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire) - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

A Hornchurch accountant who falsified two friends’ tax returns to fraudulently reclaim £21,000 for himself has been handed a suspended sentence.

Paul Lawrence, 35, of Devonshire Road, convinced two of his friends to let him handle their tax affairs, before abusing their trust and scamming the system out of thousands.

He submitted self-assessment tax returns to HMRC between 2012 and 2015 which included false information about their income to fraudulently receive £21,000 in tax repayments.

He made multiple repayment claims after assuring his friends he was a qualified accountant, then used the cash he banked to visit bars and stay in hotels.

Lawrence, 35, received repayments from his own self-assessment account and from his pals’ by exaggerating expenses claims and downplaying the amounts of earnings.

Brett Wilkinson, Assistant Director, Financial Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Lawrence knew what he was doing was wrong. He was abusing the tax system to fund his lifestyle and dragged his blameless friends into the mire.

“Tax fraud is not a victimless crime. It affects us all by depriving the public services of vital funding. I would ask anyone with information about tax fraud to report it online or contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

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Lawrence admitted nine charges of fraud by false representation and was sentenced to 15 months of jail at Inner London Crown Court on Friday, August 17, 2018.

It was suspended for two years, but he will have to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and attend a “Thinking Skills” rehabilitation program to prevent him reoffending.

HMRC will now pursue confiscation proceedings against Lawrence.