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Farm worker gets home detention for making false GST claims

A former South Canterbury farm labourer has been given 10 months' home detention for falsely claiming nearly $250,000 in GST refunds for a bogus business.

Ariki Hemi Cootes, who now resides in Porirua, filed 11 monthly GST returns between July 2014 and April 2015 for a share-milking business that never existed. While Cootes declared no income from the business, he claimed incurred expenditure of $1.76 million for cows, farm implements and feed, and was therefore due GST refunds of $229,900.

Refunds totalling $73,800 were paid to him, along with a further $2,600 applied to child support debts he owed. However, once an investigation was initiated, all other refunds were withheld.

Inland Revenue Investigations and Advice Group Manager Patrick Goggin said Cootes' offending was a deliberate and concerted attempt to defraud the tax system.

After the scheme was uncovered, Cootes continued to mislead Inland Revenue staff throughout their investigation, producing fabricated tax invoices and bank statements to support his claims.

"This type of offending is an affront to the majority of taxpayers who do the right thing. Cootes created a fictitious business for the sole purchase of trying to extract money from the Government's coffers that would otherwise have gone towards schools, hospitals and other important services," Mr Goggin said.

"Fortunately our investigators uncovered Cootes' plan, and nipped it in the bud."

Cootes was sentenced in Porirua District Court last week, and was also ordered to do 200 hours of community work.