A building sub-contractor falsely claimed a tax rebate of nearly £21,000.
Dean Colledge was caught after falsely claiming another £24,000.
A judge postponed passing sentence to see if Colledge can repay £1,000 a month to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs for six months.
Prosecutor Matthew Donkin told Teesside Crown Court Colledge filled in a tax return for the 2016-17 tax year online.
"He incorrectly represented his expenses and claimed he had already paid income tax when he had not," said Mr Donkin.
"This resulted in a payment to him of nearly £21,000 which should not have been paid.
"A further rebate claim of £24,000 was made, but this was not paid pending an investigation into Colledge's affairs.
"When interviewed, he told investigators he had filled in the forms late at night while drunk,
"This is not supported in fact because most of the submissions were made before 6pm.
"He also chased the £24,000 by telephone nine times.
"It was never paid, but the £21,000 was."
Colledge, 51, of Charters Crescent, South Hetton, admitted three charges of fraud between 2016 and 2017.
The court heard he is 'heavily previously convicted' for a range of offences including forgery, theft, and handling stolen goods.
Michael Cahil, defending, said in mitigation: "This fraud was unsophisticated and always likely to be detected.
"In one refund application, he told the Inland Revenue his expenses were £30m - a ridiculous sum for any individual, let alone a labourer.
"Mr Colledge is currently in well-paid work earning £2,500 a month.
"He has repaid some of the money, and is in a position to repay more if he is allowed to keep his liberty and therefore his job."
Judge Peter Armstrong deferred passing sentence on Colledge for six months on condition he repays £1,000 a month, and does not commit any other offences.
The judge told Colledge: "Repayment is always an important element in crimes of this nature.
"If you keep to the terms of the deferment you can expect a non-custodial sentence when we meet again in six months.
"If you do not keep to the terms I will send you to prison."