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Don't be tempted to put personal items though your business

A Margate woman who attempted to pass off vet's bills, food shopping and family treats, including a car for her daughter, as business expenses has been sentenced for committing an £18,000 tax fraud.

Amanda Tillings, 48, was responsible for looking after the accounts for her husband's painting and decorating business and for submitting his tax returns. But she overinflated business expenses between 2010 and 2014 to claim tax repayments that weren't due.When challenged by officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), she admitted that many of the expenses had been claimed incorrectly.

During the investigation Tillings was found to have included expenses for a bereavement notice placed in the local paper for her father-in-law, a personalised number plate, road tax for a convertible Mercedes Benz, ladies' shoes, a vet's bill for an animal named 'Buster', the family's weekly food shopping and even a new car for their daughter.

Tillings pleaded guilty to the offence on 20 February 2015 at Canterbury Crown Court.She was sentenced on Tuesday 31 March 2015 to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 200 hours unpaid work. A compensation order was made for her to repay the full £18,706.

I think it's fair to say that over the last ten years HMRC have given businesses an easy ride. Cases such as this show HMRC aren't the soft touch too many businesses believe they are.