A roofer ran a £21,000 tax fraud by cashing secret cheques through a high street shop.
Justin Hylton, director of Justin Hylton Roofing Ltd, used a cheque cashing company instead of his bank so he could hide his true income and profits from his accountant and the authorities.
Prosecutor Andrew Espley told Newcastle Crown Court: "Between September 29, 2013, and May 27, 2016, he cashed cheques through a cheque cashing company and failed to declare the amount as income to and thus, later, profit, for his corporation."
Mr Espley told the court the total amount of tax evaded by the 47-year-old, who employs four workers at his firm, was £21,874.
Hylton, of Spring Meadows, Rainton Bridge, Houghton, admitted evasion of income tax and fraud by false representation.
Judge Robert Adams sentenced him to six months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with 150 hours unpaid work.
The judge told him: "In short, over a period of two to three years, you effectively suppressed your income, evaded paying some income tax.
"You did this by cashing cheques through a business designed for that purpose, failing to tell those responsible for your accountancy that this was part of your profit and income.
"Inadequate sums were paid by you of income tax.
"You accept you knew full well what you were doing was wrong."
Judge Adams added that an immediate jail term could "jeopardise" the jobs of Hylton's four employees.
The court heard HMRC will undergo a process to reclaim the money.
Penny Bottomley, defending, said Hylton, who has never been in trouble before and has worked since the age of 14, regrets what he did and has expressed real remorse for it.
Miss Bottomley said Hylton will arrange to pay back what he owes in full.