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Somerset PR man sentenced for £97k tax fraud

Press release   •   May 27, 2014 16:10 BST

A public relations consultant has been sentenced for failing to pay £52,000 VAT and pocketing almost £45,000 in tax and National Insurance contributions deducted from his employees’ wages.

Accountants for Richard Hillgrove, of Somerton, told him he was required to submit VAT returns for Hillgrove Public Relations Ltd. But while the company continued to charge clients VAT, Hillgrove, 42, failed to pay HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) what was owed. Staff working for Hillgrove were also deceived, as he kept the Income Tax and National Insurance he had deducted from their wages for himself.  

Colin Spinks, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:

“Richard Hillgrove thought he could get aware with failing to declare or pay the tax he owed. He subsequently launched a public campaign against HMRC.

“Our message is clear - we will always thoroughly, diligently and appropriately investigate anyone suspected of tax fraud. We do this on behalf of honest businesses and taxpayers who quite rightly expect everyone to pay what it is due, when it is due.”

Hillgrove was arrested in June 2012 and claimed he had spent the money on his business. However, enquiries revealed a higher than expected level of personal spending, including private schooling, health club memberships, treatments at beauty salons and purchases at Louis Vuitton.

Hillgrove was subsequently charged with two counts of cheating the public revenue. He was tried at Bristol Crown Court earlier this year, but was convicted unanimously by a jury in March 2014 and returned to the same court for sentencing today.  

He was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.

Sentencing Hillgrove today, Mr Recorder Robert Linford told Hillgrove that some of his claims during his trial had been “unpleasant”.

“There may have been an enthusiastic and tenacious prosecution but this was not a conspiracy against you," he said. "To suggest that it was is ludicrous."

 “At the heart of this case is your dishonesty”, he continued, before adding that Hillgrove should “pay the Government what you owe them.”

Notes for editors

1.  Richard John Hillgrove, DOB 27.04.71, of Chaps Hollow, Somerton, Somerset.

2.  Hillgrove was charged with two offences of Cheating the Public Revenue, contrary to Common Law, by failing to pay £52,268 in VAT and £44,846 in Income Tax and National Insurance contributions due from Hillgrove Public Relations Ltd. The offences were committed between 1 March 2011 and 12 June 2012.

3.  Images are available on HMRC’s flickr site

4.  Follow HMRC on Twitter @HMRCgovuk

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.