A tax agent has been sentenced to four years imprisonment after stealing client money and filing false GST and income tax returns.

Michael Robert McDonald was sentenced in the Manukau District Court. In August, he pleaded guilty to four charges of theft by person in a special relationship, 13 charges of dishonestly using a document and one charge of false accounting.

McDonald had been a registered tax agent since 2002. Between 2007 and 2013, he failed to pay client tax money to Inland Revenue, and filed about 250 false GST and income tax returns either to get money from IRD or to keep client funds. McDonald also made false entries in one client's financial statements to conceal his offending.

The prosecution came about after an Inland Revenue investigation which began in 2012 after a routine audit, and was later referred to the SFO.

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"As a registered tax agent, Mr McDonald occupied a position of trust with both Inland Revenue and his clients," SFO director Julie Read said. "Trusted intermediaries like registered tax agents ensure that the system works efficiently for both Inland Revenue and the taxpayer. In stealing this money, Mr McDonald let down his clients as well as the community who are entitled to expect that tax monies reach their destination for the benefit of all."