An accountant to Wayne Rooney and Jeremy Paxman, who taunted the taxman by recording a version of "I Will Survive" boasting of his greed, has been jailed for 18 months over a £70m tax fraud which he masterminded at the expense of charities.
David Perrin, 47, a former HMRC official, exploited the Gift Aid scheme to help 600 wealthy clients offset their 40 per cent higher tax rate and take a slice of the profits himself. The colourful accountant spent his share of the £4.55m proceeds from the scam on exotic holidays, sports cars, works of art and expensive houses.
The scheme had been marketed to individuals, including sports stars and City bankers, who liked "jousting with the Revenue", Blackfriars Crown Court heard. Perrin, from Luton, Bedfordshire, was convicted of receiving £2m from 600 clients who he advised to buy stocks, for a few pennies, in four companies, set up and floated on the Channel Islands Stock Exchange.
But Perrin, deputy managing director of the stock market-listed Vantis Tax, inflated the stock value by paying people to buy and sell the shares.
The 329 million shares, in reality worthless, were then donated to charities in order to collect the Gift Aid. Charities that accepted the shares would later discover they could not sell the stock at its listed price.
Perrin tried to claim £70m tax relief on a total of £213m of income and company profits, the court heard. A Vantis employee involved in setting up the scam was given a Porsche Cayenne as a reward. Peter Singer QC, for the prosecution, said: "In principle everybody stood to benefit, except of course the Inland Revenue."
Perrin's clients included Guy Ritchie, Sir Michael Parkinson, former England rugby captain Martin Corry and Yusuf Islam, the singer previously known as Cat Stevens. There is no suggestion that the clients knew about the fraud.
Vantis Tax collapsed in 2010, owing HMRC £10m. When tax inspectors raided Perrin's home, they discovered his rewritten version of Gloria Gaynor's 1978 hit song on a personal computer.
The song was performed to entertain colleagues at a tax avoidance seminar, organised by Vantis Tax. Perin was convicted of "dishonestly submitting, facilitating and inducing others to submit claims for tax relief" between 2005 and 2007. Dave Hartnett, permanent secretary at HMRC, said: "This was a cynical fraud and an outrageous abuse of professional position, exploiting the tax breaks put in place to support charities and their vital work."
A confiscation hearing will be held in July.
Taunting the taxman: The cover version
I Will Survive: Gloria Gaynor – arrangement by David Perrin
At first I was afraid, I was petrified.
Kept thinking Clerkenwell and Modia [two companies caught up in the scam] were suicide.
But then I spent so many nights thinking how much cash we made
And we got paid
Almost as good as getting laid...
They should have changed that stupid law,
They should have buggered charity
But they have left that lovely tax relief
For folks to pay to me...
Weren't you the ones who said that you'd shaft us with a GAAR? [General Anti-Avoidance Rule, a measure aimed at closing tax loopholes]
You may think you've got cojones
We've got bigger balls by far.