HMRC fraud investigator nets £50,000 in falsely claimed tax credits
Regular reader will know that the topic of tax credits can be a complicated one, and the HMRC investigators are quick to jump on anything that could be a false claim. One of the things they are particularly sharp on is personal circumstances, and if you are claiming as a single person and then form a relationship with someone, they have teams of investigators who will go to great lengths to dig into your personal life and check for any overpayments.
One such investigator is Nicola Shaw, a 37-year-old mother from Liverpool. She knows the system better than anyone, and has investigated scores of overpayment cases in her 19-year career in HMRC’s claimant compliance team.
£50,000 fraud from within
Shaw is also one of the biggest tax credit fraudsters that has ever been reported. In 2003, at the age of 22, she jointly bought a house with childhood sweetheart Richard Hamblett. The following year, their first child was born and the pair made a legitimate joint tax credit claim in July 2004 – after all, by this time, Shaw had already been working for HMRC for five years, so she knew the system well.
The couple split later that year, and Shaw made a new claim as a single person in December of 2004. So far so good, but the following year, things changed dramatically. Shaw and Hamblett reunited at some point in 2005, and the following year, they got married. However, she continued to claim as a single person right up to 2015.
During this period, she fraudulently claimed an incredible £50,000. While all the time, continuing her career as an HMRC inspector and hunting down others who were doing the same thing. In fact, the only difference between Shaw and those she was investigating is that there is no possibility of suggesting that she was unaware of the rules and had not realised that she needed to inform HMRC of her changed circumstances.
Prison was “richly deserved”
Shaw’s trial got underway on 12 February at Liverpool Crown Court, and on the first day, she admitted the charge of fraud. She was in tears in the dock as presiding judge Andrew Menary, QC told her she was a poor role model for her children and that she had attempted to lie her way out of trouble.
He went on to say that a custodial sentence was “richly deserved” and would be what the public would expect, given the nature of her crime and her own background as an HMRC fraud investigator. However, he went on to say that such a sentence would have “significant consequences” for her children, and handed down a seven month sentence, suspended for two years. She was also ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work.
Was justice done?
The judge’s comments are understandable, but we cannot help feeling that this is someone who has got off very lightly. At Hylton Potts, we help people who have received overpayments for all sorts of reasons. For example, sometimes they have forgotten to inform HMRC of a change, and sometimes they have not realised that a new relationship is something HMRC needs to know about.
This, however, was clearly a case of wilful and intentional fraud, and to the tune of a large amount of money. Even more galling, it was committed by someone in a position of trust who worked within the public body that she had defrauded.
We would be interested to hear what you think about the case, and the sentencing – as ever, your comments are welcome in the section below.
Meanwhile, if you are under any kind of investigation by HMRC or the DWP, always remember that we are here to help. All you have to do is give us a call on
020 7381 8111, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of the team will be at the ready.