Childcare owner ‘holidayed overseas while tax debt mounted over $250,000’

A Hamilton childcare operator has been struck off the teaching register after taking overseas holidays while running up tax debts of more than $250,000.

Virginia Jane Emma (Ginny) Pace was director and shareholder of Home Base Kids Ltd and ActionWomen Ltd, which traded as Family Matters Homebased Learning Environments – both now in liquidation.

The Teachers’ Disciplinary Tribunal says she “went on overseas trips and purchased a half share in a property” while the two companies up debts to Inland Revenue of more than $250,000.

She was sentenced in the Hamilton District Court to six months’ home detention in April 2018 for “aiding and abetting two companies to apply amounts of tax for purposes other than in payment to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue”.

More than two years later, the disciplinary tribunal has issued a decision to cancel her teacher’s registration because of the conviction.

The tribunal said Pace’s offending “spanned a total period of 30 months and involved liability to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue of over $250,000”.

She was finally ordered to pay reparation to Inland Revenue of $154,459.54.

The tribunal said Pace “chose to use money that was available to pay the taxes owing, for her own personal benefit”.

“She went on overseas trips and purchased a half share in a property,” it said.

“The Crown Summary of Facts records that identified funds applied to personal expenditure from one of the respondent’s companies totalled $222,328.40 which includes a withdrawal of $147,000.”

ActionWomen Ltd, which Pace owned with another director Sarah Rolton, was registered as a company in June 2012, went into liquidation in October 2015 and was finally wound up by the liquidators on July 27 this year.

The final liquidator’s report lists 14 other creditors as well as Inland Revenue.

Home Base Kids Ltd, of which Pace was the sole shareholder and director, was registered in March 2014 and went into liquidation in June 2016. The only creditors were listed as Inland Revenue and the Accident Compensation Corporation.

Pace blamed her accountant and described herself as “a great teacher” but not such a great business owner.

She told what was then the Education Council in an August 2017 letter: “We were an extremely successful early childhood service with very rapid growth…growth worked against us and we were always catching up financially…at the same time, we had an accountant who didn’t seem particularly interested in working for us…the accountant was meant to be our tax agent but at no time did he do our monthly returns for PAYE or GST…”

“The other conviction came about as there was a long period of time where, while I furnished PAYE returns, I didn’t have the money to pay them,” she wrote.

“I made several approaches to the IRD…to make an arrangement to pay the overdue amount but was turned down on every occasion…

“I understand that as a director of my company, I did not meet my tax obligations and I regret not making the necessary follow ups with the accountant.

“I may be a great teacher with a proven reputation but I am not a business owner – I need to be held accountable… I really just want to be teaching teachers and can’t wait to put this behind me.”

She later told the disciplinary tribunal that she had “an otherwise unblemished teaching record”.

“She completed her teacher training in 1987 and apart from three short breaks during which time she had her children, she has taught consistently in that time,” the tribunal said.

“She refers to her commitment to continually upskill herself and as recently as 2018 completed her Adult Tertiary Teaching Certificate and is currently working towards a Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy. The respondent is also studying at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in the He Papa Tikanga programme.

“The respondent acknowledges that her offending was inexcusable but said that she did not have adequate systems in place (including alleged negligent professional advice) to ensure that tax was paid as it should be.

“She submits that she has suffered tremendously as a result of what has happened but accepts responsibility for the offending.”

However, the tribunal noted that Pace “benefited directly from the offending” and that the amount of money involved was “far in excess” of previous benefit fraud cases that had led to teachers being censured.

It said she “initially showed a lack of remorse for the offending and blamed others for a situation that was entirely of her own making”.

“Despite the conduct being in regard to the respondent’s roles as a business administrator and not a teacher, the dishonesty, lack of integrity and deliberate disregard for her obligations to pay tax, in the tribunal’s view, reflects adversely on the respondent’s fitness to be a teacher,” the tribunal said.

“Further we are of the view that the reputation of the profession would be lowered if the respondent was to continue to teach.”

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