A Perthshire businessman has been sent to jail for two years and six months after being found guilty after trial of a VAT fraud totalling more than £160,000.
Sheriff William Wood told Scott Coupland, 48, of Leadenflower Road, Crieff, he had shown “no remorse” nor made any effort to pay back the money owed to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and said the only option for him was to hand out a custodial sentence.
Perth Sheriff Court had previously heard that Coupland was the sole director with WDR Coupland (Produce) Ltd, a potato merchant’s business, and how he was solely responsible for submitting the firm’s VAT returns.
During the trial, Coupland had claimed that an accounting computer system used to file payments to hauliers and note items such as petty cash, had “crashed” in 2011.
The former businessman, who took on three jobs following him being charged with the VAT fraud allegations, had told the court that this computer “glitch” led to the loss of substantial amounts of financial information, and forced him to “re-key” historic details of his VAT returns to HMRC, and as a result, make unwitting errors.
However, this failed to convince a jury who found him guilty of knowingly submitting false VAT claims to HMRC and fraudulently evading VAT totalling £124,172 between March 3, 2011, and June 6, 2012.
The jury had also found him guilty of 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 repayments.
Coupland had denied both charges.
The court had previously heard from Chrystal Symons, 59, a compliance officer with HMRC, who became concerned with certain aspects of Coupland’s VAT returns and how she then passed the matter on to the investigations department of the Government body.
On Wednesday, Michael Meehan QC, representing Coupland, told the court that his client had now been offered a loan of £20,000 from his brother towards restitution to HMRC, and asked Sheriff Wood to adjourn the case to allow more time to pay back the remainder of the money owed.
“I would ask that some structure be made to pay the remaining £140,000, but realise this £20,000 is only a portion of the money owed,” he said.
However, Sheriff Wood told Coupland that the potato merchant business was zero-rated in terms of VAT and that the former businessman had a “somewhat cavalier” approach to submitting his company accounts.
“You submitted seven false VAT claims in 21 months, have shown no remorse and made no offer of restitution until today,” he said.
“Also, you didn’t make yourself available for interview with HMRC officers and there was no reason for these false claims to be made.
“I realise the impact being sent to jail will have on your family but the only option is for a custodial sentence.”
Sheriff Wood also granted a request from the Crown to look into the financial aspect of a sale of a property owned by Coupland. This will be heard in court on April 5.