Payback order over tax rebate swindle

Wigan and Leigh Magistrates Court
Wigan and Leigh Magistrates Court
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A Wigan accountant who worked for a “local council” has been ordered to pay thousands in compensation to a private customer after spending his tax rebate.

Joanne Smith, from Ladies Lane in Hindley, appeared at Wigan Magistrates’ Court this week charged with theft from a person.

The court heard how the 39-year-old had been working in a private capacity for a friend of a friend for three years before she stole £2,346 from his business.

Prosecutor, Katie Beattie, told magistrates how Philip Doolan had hired Ms Smith after being put in touch with her by a friend.

“The idea is that she would be paid £250 and he would have his tax done by her,” said Ms Beattie. “He gave Ms Smith all the bank account details and petrol receipts and any expenses.

“She would then work out how much he would pay in tax and how much he was owed from HMRC.

“It would first go into her account then she would pay him.”

Magistrates heard how the first year went well with no problems but in the second year, Mr Doolan received more than £1,000 from HM Revenue which he spent.

Shortly after the rebate he was contacted by the taxman and told he would have to repay the money as he had received an overpayment.

Ms Beattie said: “He contacted Ms Smith and said, ‘I don’t know what she was doing but I ended up with bailiffs at my door. I had to pay back £1,600’.”

After Ms Smith explained that this was “just a mistake”, Mr Doolan decided to stay with her the following year because he “didn’t want the bother”.

The court was told how the real trouble with his account began the following year. Due to the payments he was making to HMRC, Mr Doolan did not have the money to pay Ms Smith upfront so the pair arranged that she would work for him and receive the one-off payment from his tax rebate.

“I was expecting something back from HMRC about May,” he told police. “May went by and I didn’t have anything.

“She said the money hadn’t gone into her account. She kept saying the same thing.”

Frustrated, Mr Doolan finally contacted HMRC who confirmed that a payment was made to Ms Smith on May 21, 2017. In an impact statement, the self-employed businessman said: “I’m absolutely gutted she did this to me, I trusted her. She had no right to take my money.”

According to Ms Smith, who offered to pay Mr Doolan back, she was struggling financially as her partner was out of work and the pair were only receiving £60 a week in benefits. Defending Ms Smith, James Towey told magistrates: “The reasons were purely financial. She hasn’t funded a lavish lifestyle she was keeping a roof over her head.

“Her partner lost his driving licence and his employment. They were in financial distress. This will have a significant impact on the defendant. She’s a qualified accountant. This year she lost her contract with the local council.

“She’s now claiming unemployment benefits and income support. She just gave into temptation.”

The court was told how Ms Smith is also in the process of being taken through civil court for a similar matter with another client who chose not to press charges.

Magistrates sentenced the disgraced accountant to a nine-month custodial sentence suspended for 12 months. Ms Smith was also given 20 days of rehabilitation activity and has been ordered to repay £2,346 to Mr Doolan as well as a £115 victim surcharge.