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Jail for online trader who cheated HMRC
by Susie Hughes at 12:37 03/09/14 (News on Business)
The crackdown on undeclared tax and income online traders by HM Revenue and Customs has led to a two year jail sentence for one Manchester man after his fraudulent activities.
John Woolfenden, 52, from Radcliffe, traded on Play.com, Playtrade and on eBay as ‘Globalworldentertainments’, selling DVDs, CDs and games but never declared his self-employed status or sales for tax purposes.

The fraud, including unpaid taxes, interest and money laundering totalling £299,753.17, was discovered as part of the HMRC’s e-Marketplaces campaign to tackle undeclared tax and income from online trading.

When HMRC officers raided his home address in May 2013 they found all the signs of a busy online trader: there were huge stocks of DVDs, CDs and games and even the shower was stacked to the ceiling with boxes.

Sandra Smith, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: “Woolfenden did not declare his true income on his Self Assessment tax returns; he did not register for VAT, or pay VAT owed for his commercial trading online. He stole a substantial sum of money purely to line his own pockets.

“HMRC will pursue every avenue to ensure evaded taxes are restored to the taxpayer and public finances.”

During the fraud he had more than 520,000 listings on eBay. HMRC forensic accountants also discovered that payments of nearly £1.4 million had passed through his online bank accounts over a six-year period. He routed other payments through an American bank account in an attempt to disguise his income and launder his profits.

He made no mention of his online trading income on his Self Assessment tax returns and, when challenged by HMRC for details of the trade, he ignored the requests and did not respond to letters. Investigations discovered that advertising for Globalworldentertainments said the business has been trading for 20 years.

The HMRC e-Marketplaces campaign was one of a number of targeted 'carrot and stick' campaigns. HMRC encourages those who might be involved to come forward voluntarily and face a reduced penalty, with the threat that if HMRC comes looking for them, the conquences will be tought.

HMRC says that is continuing to use the data gathered during the campaign to identify people who should have come forward but chose not to.

Since 2007, HMRC campaigns have collected over £596 million in tax, and over £338 million from follow-up activity.
Campaigns launched so far have targeted offshore investments, medical professionals, plumbers, VAT defaulters, coaches and tutors, electricians, online traders, landlords and health professionals. A number of criminal investigations are underway and eight people have been convicted of cheating the public revenue, leading to the recovery of £593,000.

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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2014

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