A LIVERPOOL couple who ran a repair garage and pub in the city have been jailed for a total of seven years for a £470,000 tax and benefit fraud.
Members of the Knutsen family ran the car repair garage, which was also an MOT centre, in Hill Street and Chaplin’s Bar in Lodge Lane but failed to pay any VAT, national insurance or income tax while also fraudulently claiming benefits.
Bernard Knutsen, 68, of Fell Street, was jailed for four years and his wife Maureen, 62, also of Fell Street, was jailed for three years, while their daughter Kelly, 39, of Ellencliffe Drive, was given a 21-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, after the fraud investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). They were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court and confiscation proceedings to recover the stolen tax have begun.
Investigators found Bernard Knutsen ran the Hill Street garage – known at various times as Able Testing, Hillside Services and The Service Station – and did the same with Chaplin’s Bar, which he ran with the help of his wife. However, the pair failed to declare their income from the businesses when claiming various benefits.
Their daughter received unexplained money from both businesses into her bank account. She also claimed benefit to cover her rent but failed to declare a second property that she owned and rented out.
Bernard Knutsen admitted the fraudulent evasion of income tax, national insurance and VAT, three offences of failing to declare that he was working and owned property other than his home address while claiming benefits, dishonestly making false representations to the DWP to receive pensions credits, and dishonestly making a false representation to the DWP for income support.
Maureen Knutsen had denied but was found guilty of the joint fraudulent evasion of VAT with her husband, and failing to declare that she was working and owned property other than her home jointly with her husband while claiming benefit.
Kelly Knutsen had denied but was found guilty of three charges of concealing, possessing and using criminal property (£51,000 in cash) between 2007 and 2014, ie, the untaxed income from her parents’ joint businesses, and paying it into her own bank accounts, and three charges of failing to notify the DWP and Liverpool City Council of a change in circumstances affecting her entitlement to income support and housing benefit.
Sandra Smith, assistant director at the HMRC Fraud Investigation Service, said: ‘This family thought they were exempt from the law. You cannot decide to ignore your tax obligations and not expect HMRC to take action. We are determined to maintain a level playing field for all local businesses and will not tolerate fraud like this.
‘Tax evasion isn’t a victimless crime. Tax fraud is theft from the public purse. It takes money out of public services that everyone in the UK relies upon.’
A DWP spokesman said: ‘Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this show how we are rooting out the unscrupulous minority who are cheating the system and diverting taxpayers’ money from those who really need it.’
Pictured are Bernard Knutsen and Maureen Knutsen (image via HMRC)