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Woman funded lifestyle by false tax claims

Last updated 07:35 13/11/2012
Suzanne Bettridge
LEILANI HATCH/Fairfax NZ
MUSCLING THE SYSTEM: Bodybuilder Suzanne Bettridge filed false GST returns and wrongly claimed more than $150,000 in refunds.

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A personal trainer and health supplements provider has been sentenced to 10 months' home detention and 200 hours' community work after admitting filing false tax returns to help fund her lifestyle including jet skis and gym membership.

Feilding-based Suzanne Bettridge ran a business that direct marketed health products to customers. The business partnership filed GST returns from 2003 until 2009.

In 2006, Bettridge also became involved in weight management consulting and personal training and started filing personal business GST and income tax returns.

The Inland Revenue Department started an investigation after she filed GST returns that consistently claimed large refunds.

Group Manager Investigations and Advice Patrick Goggin said Bettridge claimed $1.5 million in expenses for GST and income tax purposes but only returned a combined income of just over $31,000 for both businesses.

"The expenditure claims included private items such as gym memberships, clothing, a jet ski and personal grooming costs. Bettridge also claimed costs relating to her home including rental expenses, though she had not paid rent.

"There were no records to support these claims and she kept changing her story as to why she could not produce the necessary documentation."

Goggin said Bettridge told IRD she had been loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for these expenses but this turned out to be untrue.

"Bettridge's actions were a deliberate attempt to claim money to which she was not entitled," he said.

"She was responsible for filing GST and income tax returns for her businesses and she was fully aware of the rules and that her actions were illegal.

"She was funding her lifestyle by making false GST refund claims and thereby cheating taxpayers by her actions.''

She admitted in the Feilding District Court to filing 46 false GST returns and four false income tax returns.

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- Manawatu Standard

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