A COUPLE who claimed refunds worth £100,000 for an alpaca trekking business and mixed farm in Somerset have been found guilty of fraudulent evasion of VAT.

Caroline Beech, 54, and her partner Patrick Ancill, 66, defrauded HMRC of thousands of pounds by "playing the VAT system" over six years, even though their trekking business was actually an empty field.

During their trial, the court heard how the couple had never paid any VAT on the farm but claimed rebates in every quarter by telling HMRC that they had made allowable purchases.

The prosecution told the court how 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.

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.

The couple's defence argued that, by 2012, Beech's business had failed and she had handed over the business paperwork to Ancill, which he admitted, claiming that she had no knowledge of VAT returns after 2012.

The defence also argued that Ancill had been asked during the course of his evidence whether Beech was lying and had not said that she was.

It stated that Beech had not intended to defraud HMRC by submitting false claims and that the question was: "whether he had done so in her knowledge or in the absence of her knowledge."


The defence claimed that Beech had been unaware of the situation and "as soon as she was aware she was being investigated, she was pro-active and did something about it."

Detailing their relationship, the couple's defence claimed that Beech was "a vulnerable lady" who had a "difficult home life" and described Ancill by saying: "He appears to be somebody that hinks they know a lot, sometimes arrogant, perhaps.

"Someone who refuses to answer quite straight forward questions.

"Not someone who would be easy to talk to or challenge."

The court had previously heard how, 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."

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.

At the end of the trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict that both Beech and Ancill were guilty.

The couple will remain on conditional bail until their sentencing on Tuesday, June 28.