Celebrity chef Paul Heathcote in VAT court case

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A celebrity chef and restaurant owner has appeared in court in connection with allegations he flouted rules around supplying goods that are subject to VAT.

Paul Heathcote MBE, 52, who gave his address as Winckley Square, Preston, faces allegations relating to two Lancashire restaurants.

HMRC sometimes puts conditions on certain traders that they have to pay a sum of money as an assurance or security relating to the payment of VAT.

It is understood Mr Heathcote and his companies were subject to such a rule and were expected to pay a VAT surety of around £25,000 to Customs. Unless the sum is paid, the individual is not allowed to trade as someone who provides goods subject to VAT, such as food.

Court summonses, which contained 30 charges, centred on claims he continued providing goods and services subject to VAT when the £25,000 had not been paid, contravening the condition set out by HMRC.

However, the court heard that the sum had been paid by Mr Heathcote the week before the court date. Phillippa Jones, prosecuting, said she understood the payment had since been provided to the relevant authority but had not cleared. She also applied to adjourn the case because she only had instructions relating to the offences relating to Mr Heathcote and the Preston arm of the business, not the Longridge one, which is in liquidation.

The first of allegations relate to him as an individual and concern 10 occasions between April and October 2012.

A second set of 10 similar allegations relate to the same dates and amounts but concern his firm PH Restaurants (Preston) Ltd, which ran his restaurant Heathcotes on Winckley Square.

The third set relates to PH Restaurants Longridge Ltd, which ran Mr Heathcote’s flagship restaurant on Higher Road, Longridge.

Mr Heathcote founded his first restaurant, Heathcotes in Longridge, in 1990 at the age of just 29. It later became known as The Longridge Restaurant.

Defending, Peter Turner said: “Mr Heathcote is anxious to make sure HMRC are not out of pocket and he has been trying hard to resolve it.”

Mr Heathcote was given unconditional bail and the case was adjourned until November 20.

He is the figure behind Heathcotes Brasserie and The Olive Press Preston.

Mr Heathcote, who wore a black jacket, grey trousers and white shirt, stood in the glass dock at Preston Magistrates Court as District Judge Goodwin agreed to adjourn the case for a meeting to take place between the agencies involved and for further details to be supplied.

His defence solicitor Peter Turner said: “Mr Heathcote is anxious to make HMRC are not out of pocket and he has been trying hard to resolve it.”

Mr Heathcote was given unconditional bail and the case was adjourned until November 20.

He declined to comment after the hearing.