Arnold steeplejack wrongly charged firms nearly £100,000 in VAT

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A steeplejack wrongly charged firms VAT for six years - and landed in court because he pocketed the £97,452.

Drew Craig's company were not registered for the tax when he started out, and he only joined the scheme after a visit to his offices in Lincoln Street, Old Basford.

Abigail Joyce, prosecuting, told Nottingham Crown Court: "He told the officer he didn't know his VAT number because his computer system was not currently working.

"He said none of the paperwork showed the registered VAT number and his invoices were in the computer. He purported to make a couple of phone calls to get the VAT number but this was unsuccessful."

Later, a VAT number began to appear on his invoices, but this had been used by an unrelated business and had been cancelled two years ago.

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Miss Joyce said he tried put in backdated VAT claims to businesses which had employed his services and said: "That was the intention of trying to cover his tracks."

When customs officers worked out how much he had gained, they were "generous" in calculating it at a rate of 12.5 per cent, a figure allowed under a special scheme. He had actually been charging a 20 per cent rate, added Miss Joyce.

A 21-month prison term, suspended for two years, was imposed on Craig of Woodchurch Road, Arnold.

He admitted two counts of falsely claiming VAT up to 2016. He must do 180 hours unpaid community work.

The court heard that the tax will eventually be clawed back from him. His current assets are made up of a £2,500 Land Rover, £7,850 in the bank and £24,000 equity tied up in his home.

The hearing was told that his first firm was called DCC Steeplejacks and Lighting Protection. He was a director and his mother was also a director. It was involved in high rise maintenance, fitting lightning conductors, demolition and heritage work.

Digby Johnson, mitigating, said he got some advice when deciding to set up a company and followed that.

"That person said you could ask for VAT to be paid retrospectively and that is something which he appears to have clung onto," said Mr Johnson.

His income in one year was £8,000 but later went up to £28,000. For some periods, his firm had "very little work and was eventually wound up."

Craig, 39, is now working for a firm, assessing repairs needed to heavy duty tanks in Bristol and doing a similar project on RAF radio towers in Lincolnshire, added Mr Johnson.

Recorder Martin Butterworth told Craig: "It is impossible to deal with this on the basis you were doing it by virtue of any simple misunderstanding."