PR advisor Richard Hillgrove denies £93,000 tax fraud

A public relations advisor failed to pay £93,000 in tax after he spent the money on "himself, his family and his business", a court has heard.

Richard Hillgrove, 42, from Somerton in Somerset, is accused of cheating public revenue over a 12-month period.

Bristol Crown Court heard his firm, Hillgrove Public Relations Limited, had experienced "cash flow issues".

But Joss Ticehurst, prosecuting, said Mr Hillgrove "took the decision not to pay" HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Between March 2011 and May 2012, Mr Hillgrove is accused of pocketing £52,000 of VAT, charged to his customers, and £41,000 in taxes deducted from his employees' wages.

Mr Ticehurst told the court the money that should have been paid to HMRC was instead used for "extravagant" purchases including hotels, restaurants and school fees.

He said: "Mr Hillgrove took the money that was meant to go to the tax man and spent it.

"He ought to pay it to HMRC, knew this and chose not to."

'Buy time'

In January 2011 an agreement was made for the debt to be paid in instalments, Mr Ticehurst told the jury.

But, he said, Mr Hillgrove "failed to grasp" the economic state of his company and repeatedly withdrew too much money from it.

"Mr Hillgrove was being told what he owed and what to pay. He didn't pay it," said Mr Ticehurst.

"He was failing to pay what he knew he owed because he was spending money on himself, his family and his business."

In an interview, Mr Hillgrove insisted he was simply trying to "buy time" by not paying the debt and had always intended to pay the bill, the court heard.

Mr Hillgrove, who is representing himself in court, told the jury: "I'm not a tax fraudster, I have never been a tax fraudster. I've always wanted to pay my tax."

The trial continues.

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