Accountant admits lying to TPR over pensions

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An accountant for a London café has admitted to lying to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) about staff being enrolled into a pensions scheme. 

TPR launched an investigation into Gran Caffe Londra in Knightsbridge, situated right across from Harrods, after the company missed its deadline to automatically enrol staff into a pension in October 2015.

When TPR arranged an inspection of the business, accountant Hashmukh Shah falsely declared that the company had met its duties. 
 
When later interviewed, he admitted he had purposely misled officers. Shah’s declaration prevented an inspection which would have uncovered the employer’s failure to automatically enrol its staff.
 
Shah’s lie delayed TPR’s investigation by more than a year, denying the café’s staff pension contributions to which they were entitled.
 
At Brighton Magistrates' Court earlier, Shah, of Richmond, Surrey, pleaded guilty to knowingly or recklessly providing false information to TPR. Deliberately providing false information to TPR about auto enrolment is an offence under the Pensions Act 2004.
 
The case is the first time the watchdog has prosecuted a third party on behalf of an employer. The maximum penalty is an unlimited fine. Shah will be sentenced on 5 September.
 
After the hearing, TPR director Darren Ryder said: "It is totally unacceptable for an accountant or any other professional to file false documents to purposely avoid meeting an employer's automatic enrolment pension duties.
 
"There is no legitimate excuse for such action, which denies staff the savings they deserve for their retirement."
 
Henry Tapper, founder of Pension PlayPen and director at First Actuarial, labelled Shah’s actions as “dumb”. He added, “We will find out soon how criminal that stupidity was.
 
“Accountants need to promote, not demote auto-enrolment. Workplace pensions aren't a tax to be avoided but a workplace benefit to be celebrated.”
 
Gran Caffe Londra eventually became compliant in March 2018 and the company has backdated pension contributions for its staff.

About Francois Badenhorst

Francois

I'm AccountingWEB's business editor. Feel free to get in touch with comments, tips, scoops or irreverent banter. 

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16th Aug 2018 13:25

The idea that an inspector would just accept the company's assertion that it had complied is ludicrous. They should have continued their investigations despite the assertion. I now assume TPR either does not have enough teeth or does not take its duties seriously enough.

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to Moonbeam
16th Aug 2018 15:06

Yes. Mind, TPR would then only have been able to take umbrage with the failure to comply.

Now it can raise penalties for that AND for the lies.

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By SXGuy
17th Aug 2018 10:16

The whole thing baffles me.

Why AE wasn't done, why he lied. I don't see the point.

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17th Aug 2018 10:17

Accountants need to promote, not demote auto-enrolment. Workplace pensions aren't a tax to be avoided but a workplace benefit to be celebrated.”

ALL PRAISE TO THE HOLY ONE

Hardly a cause for celebration it's just an extra cost imposed by government.

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By teek1
to The Black Knight
17th Aug 2018 10:31

Ha ha, exactly my thoughts !!!

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to The Black Knight
17th Aug 2018 15:01

Disappointing attitude but typical of this sad country. Treat the workers like dirt. Only provide for them when forced. When oh when will we learn, understand and apply good working relationships? As a nation we are a disgrace.

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to GamekeeperTurnedPoacher
17th Aug 2018 12:02

Perhaps if idiotic politicians hadnt swamped us with low waged immigration over the last few decades, and had properly controlled the financial system, we might have been able to keep the state pension at 65/60.

The incremental costs (NHS/benefits/schools/etc)of looking after millions of minimum wage Immigrants is much greater than the incremental national economic benefit of that labour. Its about wealth distribution I.e cheaper labour for business owners, with costs externalised to the masses.

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to SJH-ADVDIPMA
22nd Aug 2018 15:33

I would not worry about the immigrants earning low wages but the overlords in the pocket of Russians, accumulating the wealth produced by the above, gaining even more by stirring up the ants nest. Tax-paying immigrant.

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17th Aug 2018 10:29

"I'll simply lie to them - they won't check"

Is that extreme arrogance, or extreme stupidity?

Baffling...

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By teek1
17th Aug 2018 10:39

Yes, So TPR take the accountants word of mouth and the investigation is delayed for 1 year?

Surely a quick check of payroll records or a chat to the staff would show he was lying. Wage, age and no opt out would show he lied.
Maybe a lot of investigating and money would have been saved.
Anyway back to celebrating A/E.

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By mcadder
17th Aug 2018 11:02

On another note, the company's website shows the company registration number as 07294658 but Companies House shows dormant accounts being filed every year since incorporation for that company. If there is a separate company trading the business then the website would be associated with that company?

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17th Aug 2018 11:52

Sadly there are charlatans and mountebanks in every profession - it makes the world a richer (sic) place.

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17th Aug 2018 12:09

Can't wait to see what TPR have in line for NOW Pensions then

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By Dandan
17th Aug 2018 13:22

It is strange that they are not going after the employer whose responsibility it is. They are prosecuting a third party acting on behalf of the employer.

Have I missed something ? Does that mean that some part-time accountant I employ to do my bookkeeping can take the blame if my accounts to HMRC are full of errors.

One law for TPR and one law for HMRC.

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By Dandan
17th Aug 2018 13:35

I very much doubt that the employees will be happy having to fork out all the backdated contributions.

Just a bunch of young people working in a café temporarily before deciding on career moves. Every pound counts for them. Many are from the EU and , in most likelihood, do not know they can opt out.

I am curious to know , should a national survey be taken out, how many people are aware of the opt out clause. Even though they get a pack , they probably don't realise.

I have found that every time I informed somebody that they can opt they went for the opting out. They don't really care about the employer's additional contribution. They just don't want to be coerced into a pension scheme.

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to Dandan
20th Aug 2018 09:27

But it's not that it's simply buried in the welcome pack. It's also included in the single page letter that the employer is mandated to give to the employee when they are enrolled.

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By Dandan
to SteLacca
20th Aug 2018 18:24

Both the pack and the single page letter arrive after months of advertising campaign which does not mention :-
1)Opting out
2)Your pension scheme may under-perform or you may lose everything.

The public had already been "briefed" by the TV and poster advert. In their mind it was a compulsory thing with no risk . No need to read the letter or pack. Govt. always has best intention ....

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to Dandan
21st Aug 2018 14:37

With my clients who have failed to meet their obligations despite numerous reminders from us, they have had to backdate the employer contributions but the employees have the choice as to whether to backdate or not.
Personally I think there will be a much higher rate of opt-out come April when employees have to contribute 5%. I think that is far too much, too quickly for a lot of employees to stomach.

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By Dandan
to bendybod
23rd Aug 2018 13:31

Good to know the employees have a choice not to backdate.

I agree. There will definitely be a higher rate of opt-out when the mandatory contribution rate goes up.

There are alternatives to providing for retirement. Perhaps the government thinks we are too stupid to think for ourselves.

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20th Aug 2018 15:54

Is this a record?
The View all replies button says:-
"View all 15 2 1 14 replies”

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21st Aug 2018 22:15

And when will successive governments since the 1950s be prosecuted for not paying in the full contributions to the state old age pension funds?

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14th Sep 2018 09:58

Just what was Shah's motives ?????? he was more important/ and above the law,

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