Couple who dodged VAT go to jail

The Howards were jailed at Hamilton Sheriff Court
The Howards were jailed at Hamilton Sheriff Court

A Motherwell couple have each been jailed for three years after they were convicted of dodging more than half a million pounds in VAT payments.

Michael and Donna Howard, who lived in Snead View in upmarket Dalziel Park, ran a company which supplied services to security firms.

Michael (44) and Donna (43) were both found guilty at Hamilton Sheriff Court of being involved in the fraudulent evasion of nearly £529,000 in value added tax between February 2010 and December 2013.

She was also convicted of evading payment of £120,000 in income tax and £162,000 in national insurance in respect of employees. Those charges against Michael Howard were found not proven.

Donna Howard will serve an extra nine months for the income tax and national insurance offences.

The Howards, who have two sons aged 21 and 18, lived in an expensive house in Dalziel Park and the court heard they enjoyed luxury holidays abroad and had top of the range cars.

However, their extravagant lifestyle ended after one of their workers discovered HMRC had no record of him paying tax or national insurance.

An investigation began and the huge extent to which the Howards had evaded tax payments was uncovered.

Their company had been a supplier to firms in the security industry. The court heard that one of these, Scotshield, had been invoiced for £2 million and paid its bill in full, but the Howards’ company had not passed on the taxman’s share.

The couple, whose marriage is now over, blamed each other for failing to make deductions.

Advocate Owen Mullan, for Michael Howard, said his reputation is “effectively ruined”, he is unlikely to ever get work in the industry again and he will lose all his assets under a Proceeds of Crime action.

Mr Mullan added; “He is terrified of prison and knows the impact it will have on him and those around him.”

Advocate Vincent Lunny, who appeared for Donna Howard, said she claimed to be the victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her former husband.

He told the court: “Her position is she was doing what she was told against the backdrop of an unhappy marriage.”

Passing sentence, Sheriff Vincent Smith told the pair: “Depriving the public purse of taxes due is a grave offence and must be dealt with severely.

“There is no option open to the court other than custody.”