Online CD and DVD trader jailed for tax offences

A BUSINESSMAN, who pocketed almost £300,000 by failing to pay VAT or Income Tax from his online trading, has been jailed for two years  after an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs.

John Woolfenden, 52, from Radcliffe, traded on, Playtrade and on eBay as Globalworldentertainments, selling DVDs, CDs and games but never declared his self-employed status or sales for tax purposes.

The fraud, including unpaid taxes, interest and money laundering totalling £299,753.17, was discovered as part of the HMRC’s e-Marketplaces campaign to tackle undeclared tax and income from online trading.

When HMRC officers raided his home on Grosvenor Street in May 2013 they found huge stocks of DVDs, CDs and games. His shower cubicle was stacked to the ceiling with boxes.

Sandra Smith, assistant director, criminal investigation at HMRC, said: “Woolfenden did not declare his true income on his Self Assessment tax returns; he did not register for VAT, or pay VAT owed for his commercial trading online. He stole a substantial sum of money purely to line his own pockets.  HMRC will pursue every avenue to ensure evaded taxes are restored to the taxpayer and public finances.”

Woolfenden had more than 520,000 listings on eBay. HMRC’s forensic accountants also discovered that payments of nearly £1.4m had passed through his online bank accounts over a six-year period.

He routed other payments through an American bank account in an attempt to disguise his income and launder his profits. He made no mention of his online trading income on his tax returns and, when challenged by HMRC for details of the trade, he ignored the requests and did not respond to letters.

Woolfenden pleaded guilty to three tax and VAT-related charges at an earlier hearing at Bolton Crown Court.