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Auckland accountant sentenced to more than 2 years jail for taxpayer rip-off

Former Auckland accountant Paul James Lawrence was today sentenced to two years and two months in prison after stealing thousands of dollars in bogus tax credits.

Lawrence, who now lives in Rotorua, claimed $278,125 in fake charitable donation tax credits on behalf of 33 unwitting clients at an Auckland accountancy firm, and diverted the money into his own bank accounts.

Speaking after the sentencing at Auckland District Court, Inland Revenue Group Manager, Investigations and Advice, Patrick Goggin said Lawrence's offending was a total breach of the relationship between a tax accountant and their clients.

"Lawrence held a position of significant responsibility," Mr Goggin said.

"He totally abused the faith of the clients whose tax affairs he looked after by stealing their identities and making false donation claims in their names.

"He then pocketed the proceeds of these claims, and spent the stolen money on a lavish lifestyle of high fashion and luxury overseas travel."

Lawrence's fraudulent behaviour came to light after one of his clients questioned a letter from Inland Revenue detailing a tax credit claim for a charitable donation they had never made. The accountancy firm then referred the matter to Police.

"This sort of behaviour totally undermines the tax system," Mr Goggin said.

"While the majority of taxpayers do the right thing, there is a minority like Lawrence who think they can get away with ripping off honest New Zealanders.

"The money Lawrence stole belonged to the New Zealand taxpayer and would have gone towards vital Government services that we all rely on, such as hospitals, schools and welfare."