Two founders of an estate agency have expressed their profound regret after being banned from being company directors for six years.
Christopher Wilcock and Adam Balmer, who founded Balmer Wilcock, with offices in the Greater Manchester area, said they had paid the “ultimate” price and had been naïve.
The pair launched their business in 2010 but it hit difficulties, and in August 2018 administrators were called in, initially finding that creditors were owed £666,302.
The creditors included HMRC which demanded almost £300,000 and issued a winding-up notice.
The Insolvency Service has now published case details revealing that Wilcock and Balmer “caused or allowed” the company to submit VAT returns which did not accurately reflect the true trading position of the business.
For the VAT period ending December 31, 2015, the firm’s accountant was instructed to reduce sales by £30,000, which would have cut VAT by £6,000.
Between May 2016 and November 2017, Balmer Wilcock submitted six nil VAT returns and one for £5,000.
Between November 2016 and the following August, Balmer Wilcock made three payments to HMRC totalling £16,000.
A final VAT return of £310,887 was submitted in March 2018.
In May that year, HMRC wrote to Balmer Wilcock requesting immediate payment of £299,887.
The firm submitted a ‘notification of errors in VAT returns’ to HMRC in relation to one VAT period, saying that the VAT payable totalled £23,516.
On July 11, 2018, HMRC arranged an inspection visit on July 17, which the company postponed. On July 12, HMRC issued a petition to wind up Balmer Wilcock.
Wilcock’s six-year disqualification started on January 17 this year, and Balmer’s will start on February 7.
According to the latest report file at Companies House by administrators Cowgills, unsecured claims total £539,773, with unsecured creditors including HMRC. There is one secured creditor, who is owed £150,000.
Balmer Wilcock continues to trade, and is the trading name of EA Property Group (Northwest).
Yesterday, a statement was issued to EYE by Wilcock and Balmer, both in their thirties.
They said: “We have paid the ultimate price and deeply regret having been struck off as company directors.
“This is as a result of fully and naively entrusting an accountancy practice that we believed had our personal and the company’s best interests at heart.
“We believe the tax liability to be fictitious.
“We implore other small businesses to ensure they carry out full due diligence when entrusting professional services to act on their behalf.
“As a result of the disqualification, there is now a new management team running Balmer Wilcock and Mr Wilcock and Mr Balmer have stepped aside from any involvement in the running and control of Balmer Wilcock.
“Balmer Wilcock’s clients will continue to receive the level of service that has made it the number one agent in the area, for which it was awarded the status of being in the top 1% in the country by the industry recognised Best Estate Agent Guide 2019.”