A North Yorkshire bookseller who made fraudulent VAT repayment claims in an attempt to steal more than £320,000 has been sentenced following an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Francis Edward Naylor, 61, from Harrogate, was the sole director of The Bear Book Company Limited and Woodlands Recycling Limited. He tried to claim fraudulent VAT refunds for both companies, but was caught out when HMRC visited him to check the credibility of a repayment claim for The Bear Book Company.

Naylor submitted a £177,301 VAT repayment claim for The Bear Book Company Limited in December 2011 but, after checks were carried out by HMRC, this figure was amended to £1,826.02. He had also made a claim of £146,790 for Woodlands Recycling Limited on the same day, but this too was rejected.

Diane Donnelly, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC said:

“Naylor knew that he was breaking the law but he chose to overlook this to try to make what he wrongly assumed would be easy money, at the expense of the UK taxpayer. He has now paid a high price for his criminal activities.

“Tax fraud is not a victimless crime and is taken seriously by the courts. I urge anyone with information about people or businesses involved in such fraud to contact HMRC.”

After entering an earlier guilty plea, Naylor was given a 15-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and banned from being a director for seven years by The Recorder of York, Judge Stephen Ashurst, at York Crown Court today, 8 May 2015. He must also pay costs of £2,500.