A couple allegedly claimed VAT refunds worth £100,000 for an alpaca trekking business and mixed farm in Somerset when they were actually living 160 miles away in Cornwall.

Caroline Beech and her partner Patrick Ancill allegedly fiddled thousands of pounds by "playing the VAT system" over six years, even though their trekking business was actually an empty field, a court has been told.

They deny the charges. 

A trial at Truro Crown Court has heard that Ancill claimed VAT refunds on what he said was a mixed farming business near Wells, Somerset.

Beech was actually living in a flat in Redruth when the VAT claims were submitted between 2011 and 2017.

The prosecution say they never paid any VAT on the farm but claimed rebates in every quarter by telling HMRC that they had made allowable purchases.

Beech, aged 54, and Ancill, aged 66, now both of Hayle, both deny the fraudulent evasion of VAT.


Ian Graham, prosecuting, told the court that they had "played the system" after they registered for VAT in early 2011. During a six-year period they never paid any VAT but every single quarter claimed refunds from HMRC.

He said Ancill claimed over six years that his sales were £39,000 but his purchases were £429,000 – and he claimed VAT refunds on those fake operating loss figures, and had £70,000 paid into his account by HMRC.

He said Beech also registered her alpaca trekking and egg selling business – which operated from the same 4.5 acre field that Ancill owned near Wells, Somerset.

She said her business sales were £19,000 over six years and her purchases were £214,000, and her false accounting figures saw her get a £36,000 VAT refund.

From 2015 Beech was living in a residential block of flats in Redruth, 160 miles from the field near Wells from where her business was meant to be operating.

In 2017 Ancill stopped making VAT refund claims after inspectors had gone to the field and they found "nothing of substance in it", said Mr Graham.

He said their figures were fictitious as they claimed they spent out a combined total of £640,000 in purchases from the small field.

In interviews the couple denied any dishonesty and said the claims were honest.

The trial continues.