A VAT officer said she felt a figure of almost two and a half million pounds put against the total net value of sales by a Perthshire potato merchant was “very high.”
Chrystal Symons, 59, a compliance officer with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), was giving evidence at Perth Sheriff Court at the trial of Scott Coupland, 48, of Leadenflower Road, Crieff, who is accused of two separate charges of VAT evasion.
On Monday, the civil servant told depute fiscal John Malpass that she has been a VAT officer since 1993. Ms Symons explained how foodstuffs such as potatoes are “zero-rated” in terms of VAT and how VAT returns submitted by Coupland, a sole director with WDR Coupland (Produce) Ltd, began to “cause her concerns.”
Ms Symons said Coupland had cancelled three meetings with her “at the last minute,” when she was told he was “out of the country” in August and October 2012.
“On one occasion I left a phone message with Mr Coupland asking to contact me about the VAT returns but he never got back in touch,” she said.
“My last arranged visit was in October 2012, when I felt he had ample time to arrange his records but this was again cancelled at the last minute. A repayment detailed in VAT returns of August 31 that year was then inhibited by us.
“By visiting businesses, it helps confirm that the submitted VAT returns are correct.”
The court heard that Ms Symons had spoken to her manager about “high levels” of repayments submitted by the accused that required checking. As a result, an HMRC investigations team were called in and they visited Coupland’s business premises and “uplifted” the VAT records.
Ms Symons said Coupland had previously notified HMRC back in 2009 when a “computer error” by him led to a mistake in some of his VAT returns for 2007 and 2008. And she told the court that the total net value of sales – listed as £2,242,410.55 in accrual business from March to May 2011 – was “very high.”
“You would need to have a large company to be doing that amount of business,” she said.
“Also, I felt the figure of £2,092,296.65 given for the net value of purchases, which covers expenses incurred such as haulage, phone use, stationary and computers in the same records, was high.”
Coupland denies knowingly submitting false VAT claims to HMRC and fraudulently evading VAT totalling £124,172 at an address in Crieff’s East High Street between March 1 2011 and May 31 2012.
He has also pleaded not guilty to being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of a second sum, amounting to £37,056.78, between June 1 2012 and November 30 2012, by submitting false VAT repayment claims.
The trial, heard before Sheriff William Wood and a jury continues.