TPR - not the toothless tiger you perhaps thought
So – you think you can hoodwink The Pensions Regulator? Think again. The accountant of a London Café made exactly that mistake. Read on and find out why he wishes he hadn’t.
There’s one piece of advice we give our clients, above all others. Be honest. There are two reasons for this -
1. An ethical reason – In every walk of life, being honest is a fundamental element of treating each other well.
A practical reason – in the long run, honesty always pays. Ask Hashmukh Shah. Hashmukh was an accountant with a client which was a London café. This is his story.
Gran Caffe Londra is a café in the Knightsbridge area of London. It’s owned by Primadell Ltd. Following its failure to automatically enroll staff into a workplace pension in October 2015, TPR (The Pensions Regulator) launched an investigation and arranged an inspection.
However, when the company’s accountant, Hashmukh Shah, declared that the company had met its pension obligations, TPR canceled their investigation. But – there was one significant problem. TPR learned that Shah’s declarations were, in fact, false. Primadell had not, after all, enrolled the café staff into a pension scheme. And they had paid no pension contributions.
TPR interviewed Shah, who admitted intentionally misleading them, in order to prevent the inspection.
On August 15th, Shah pleaded guilty at Brighton Magistrates’ Court to knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information to TPR. Consequently, the court fined him £3,937 and ordered him to pay £2,800 in costs and a £120 victim surcharge. Interestingly, this is a landmark case. It’s the first time that TPR has prosecuted a third party – someone working on behalf of an employer – for this offense.
District judge, Teresa Szagun commented, ‘In firefighting, the financial crisis of the company, Mr. Shah, in fact, chose to ignore the individuals who actually, as the casual workforce, were probably the least well off.
‘The false information he provided was deliberate and with the knowledge of the risks that involved, including the potential harm it could cause.’
She added that Shah was ‘remorseful and mortified about the error’ he had made.
TPR’s director of automatic enrolment, Darren Ryder commented, ‘This case sends a clear warning to accountants and advisers tasked with completing an employers’ automatic enrolment duties – providing TPR with false or misleading information may land you with a criminal conviction and a fine.
‘We do not look kindly on people whose deception gets in the way of our work.’
In March 2018, Gran Caffe Londra at last complied with the regulations. They ensured all staff were enrolled on a scheme and backdated all staff pension contributions that were due.
So, here we have a simple, but vital lesson. Deceiving the Pension Regulator and cheating your staff of what is rightly theirs is both unwise and immoral. You will be found out.
Are you absolutely sure about your pension obligations to your staff? Are you compliant? Are you doing it right? If you’re in any doubt at all, talk to us. Call 020 3008 7820. We’d love to hear from you. After all – we’re here to help.
This legal information is not the same as legal advice and you may not rely on our post as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding. Please, consult an attorney if you’d like to get an advice on your interpretation of this article.