A former tax office worker paid by a childhood friend to carry out tax fraud has been jailed.
Pervaze Masih, 46, was paid by childhood friend Paul Cole, of Cole & Leach Accountants, to commit income tax fraud totalling £43,327, prosecutors said.
Masih also committed £11,607 of fraud on behalf of other acquaintances, HM Revenue and Customs said.
Bristol Crown Court heard that Masih cancelled tax penalties that should have been paid by Cole and some of his friend's accountancy clients.
Masih predated the receipt of Cole's clients' self-assessment tax returns to avoid late penalties being incurred and amended HMRC databases to reduce or cancel the amount of tax due from some of Cole's clients and other parties. He also arranged the payment of tax refunds, which were not due, to some of Cole's clients and other parties.
HMRC investigations revealed that Cole paid Masih at least £8,147 to amend taxpayer records and commit fraud. He took advantage of Masih's role as an administrative officer with HMRC for his own benefit and that of his accountancy business.
Cole's clients believed he was a good accountant, able to reduce their tax liabilities, when in fact he was using his connection with Masih to commit fraud.
Following extensive investigations by the HMRC, Masih was arrested at his workplace on February 26 2009, while Cole voluntarily attended an interview with officers on January 13 2010. No other staff at the accountancy firm, where Cole was a partner, were involved in the scam, HMRC said.
Their four-week trial began in March, after which a jury found Masih, of Avenue Road in Swindon, guilty of four counts of cheating the public revenue. Co-accused Cole, 48, of Upham Road in Swindon, was convicted of three counts of cheating the public revenue.
Judge David Ticehurst jailed the pair for two years and 10 months each.
Ian Horridge, from HMRC, said: "Masih abused his position within HMRC to commit tax fraud and steal public funds. Any misuse of our systems quite simply will not be tolerated and we investigate any suspicion of wrongdoing.
"Masih will hopefully reflect on his crimes which have stripped him of his job and reputation.
"Our internal security systems and the vigilance of other staff members led to this successful prosecution. We are grateful to those employees for their integrity."
Masih and Cole face confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.