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Not so sweet potato deal lands wholesaler in jail

Press Release   •   Feb 09, 2017 11:42 GMT

A wholesale potato merchant, who falsely inflated his businesses expenses by 2,000% to claim £160,000 he wasn’t entitled to, has been jailed for two and a half years.

Scott Coupland, 48, from Leadenflower Road, Crieff, director of W D R Coupland (Produce) Limited, submitted a string of false VAT returns to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) between March 2011 and November 2012. When caught, Coupland said that his actions were driven by a downturn in business, and that he was trying to broker a business deal in Nigeria.

By claiming his overheads were more than 20 times higher than they really were, Coupland received VAT repayments much greater than he was due. Investigators found Coupland was using the VAT repayments not only to keep his ailing business afloat, but also to cover the costs of private school fees and his mortgage.

Cheryl Burr, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“The VAT repayment system exists to support legitimate businesses, not as a bank to allow criminals access to ready cash. Coupland showed little regard to the honest taxpayers he was stealing from to fund his lifestyle and failing business.

“Our efforts are helping to create a level playing field for honest businesses to operate fairly. We have put a stop to this tax fraud, but the public’s help in fighting tax evasion is vital, and suspicious behaviour can be reported at gov.uk or by calling 0800 59 5000.”

Notes for editors

1.Scott David Rae Coupland (DOB 15/05/1968) from Leadenflower Road, Crieff, was found guilty of the fraudulent evasion of Value Added Tax, contrary to the Value Added Tax Act 1994 S72 at Perth Sherriff Court on 13 January 2017. He was sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment at the same court on Wednesday, 8 February 2017.

2.Suspected tax crime can be reported to the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.

3.Images are available on HMRC’s Flickr site www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk

4.Follow HMRC’s press office 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.