A TATTOO artist who kept one set of books for himself and another for the Inland Revenue has been jailed for 18 months.
Eric Mitchenson, of Chester-le-Street, kept separate handwritten records of transactions at his parlour, Durham Crown Court heard.
Investigators estimate he underpaid £260,922 of tax over 11 years.
The court heard the fraud came to light when police visited the Skindeep Parlour in Darlington looking for a firearm in June, 2011.
Officers found an air rifle, but also the handwritten records and a note written by Mitchenson which read: “Do not show to the revenue, or to authorities or to Government bodies.
“Make sure the accountant sees this.”
Prosecutor David Scutt said Mitchenson had consistently under-declared his true takings.
Mr Scutt added: “When interviewed, he said the note was intended as an instruction to his wife in the event of his death.
“He admitted dodging tax, and said he wanted to sort it out.”
Mitchenson, 61, of North Lodge, admitted four charges of making a false statement to defraud Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) between January, 1999 and January, 2011.
He was of previous good character.
Christopher Knox, defending, said in mitigation: “Mr Mitchenson is a father and grandfather, and is man who works hard to support his family.
“He was involved in a property development company which went wrong.
“This offending came about as he was trying to restore his finances.”
Jailing Mitchenson, Judge Simon Hickey said: “It was a significant amount of money and the fraud was carried out over a significant number of years.”
Mitchenson was ordered to pay £260,922 in unpaid tax within six months, or face a further three years in prison.
A spokesman for HMRC said: “This result sends out a clear message to others that cooking the books is not an option.”