Auckland man gets 32 months for tax fraud

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A company director whose labour hire business supplied workers for major Auckland transport projects has been sentenced to nearly three years’ jail for tax evasion.

Ronald Teheretiu Message, also known as Ronnie Message, was sentenced in Manukau District Court on June 16, 2017 to 32 months’ prison on charges relating to more than $2 million in tax evasion.

His company, ‘A Message Services Limited’ provided labourers for the Waterview Tunnel and Victoria Park Tunnel motorway projects.

Failure to file returns

Inland Revenue Department (IRD) Group Manager Investigations and Advice Patrick Goggin said that Message was an experienced businessman and hence would have known his obligations as an employer to pay income tax, GST and PAYE deductions.

“Mr Message had a successful business operation working on multimillion-dollar infrastructure projects. To flout these most basic of employer obligations is completely unacceptable. This sentence should send a clear signal that tax cheaters will be caught and punished,” he said.

During the period from November 2011 to March 2015, Message’s company filed 39 monthly GST returns. Of these, 11 claimed refunds the company wasn’t entitled to while the remainder were zero returns.

Tough Questions

On all occasions, the returns should have resulted in a position of GST to pay.

When questioned about the 11 refund returns by IRD investigators, Message said that he simply made up the figures to arrive at a refund position. In total, the company evaded paying $877,471 in GST.

Over a two-year period, the company also failed to pass on nearly $500,000 in withholding tax deducted from income paid to contractors it employed.

Message did not file personal income tax returns for three years either, despite repeated requests to do so, resulting in just over $700,000 in tax being evaded.

His only defence when questioned was that he had a gambling addiction and that is how he spent the company’s money.

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