THE owner of three gift shops has been jailed for 27 months for evading £75,000 tax.

Claire Marie Greenall, 41, from Blackpool, ran three shops all called The Personal Touch in Blackburn, Wigan and Windermere selling fashion accessories and gifts.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) found Greenall deliberately hid sales to evade paying VAT between 2011 and 2015 despite earning more than £686,203 in sales.

As well as the shop in Market Way, The Mall, Blackburn she also ran one in Quarry Rigg, Bowness-on-Windermere and in Hope Street, The Galleries, Wigan.

Cllr Hussain Akhtar, who represents the town centre area of Blackburn, said he was ‘disappointed’ by Ms Greenall’s actions.

He said: “This isn’t very good for me to hear as a councillor.

“Everyone who earns money from what they make should have to pay their taxes.

“We all have a duty to obey the law and help our country, fellow citizens and government by paying taxes.

“As a ward councillor, I’m aware that we have many empty shops and we want people to bring business into Blackburn.

“It’s things like this that don’t help us achieve that, so I’m disappointed.”

Sandra Smith, assistant director of Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: “Greenall lied on her tax returns to hide her true earnings and deliberately evade VAT payments.

“Evading tax is an insult to honest taxpayers and steals money from vital public services.

“We are determined to tackle tax fraud such as this to create a level playing field for all businesses.

“If you know of anyone who is committing tax fraud you can report them by calling the HMRC Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

A HMRC investigation revealed Greenall had suppressed her sales and a forensic accountant was employed to determine the scale of the fraud from her business records.

Greenall pleaded guilty to four VAT fraud offences at Preston Crown Court on 10 October 2017 and was jailed for 27 months at the same court on 8 November 2017.