UK - A former chartered accountant has been fined £2,000 (€2,534) after he misled The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and staff about the payment of almost £40,000 of outstanding pensions contributions.

In addition to the fine, Michael Sheridan, executive director of Mediqal Limited, was  "severely reprimanded" by the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEAW) after he failed to pay £13,537 of staff pensions contributions to the pension scheme between 2003 and 2004.

TPR revealed staff at the software company had contacted the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority (OPRA) - TPR's predecessor - in 2004, when they discovered contributions taken from their salaries between December 2003 and April 2004, amounting to £13,537, had not been paid into their pension scheme.
Under the law, it is the duty of the employer to make sure contributions are paid to pension scheme administrators by the 19th day following the month in which they were deducted from members.

However, when TPR took over the case from OPRA in 2005 it discovered Sheridan had also failed to pass on £25,890 of employer contributions to the pension scheme, although he assured both TPR and members the missing money would be paid once the company received a tax credit of £98,224.

But TPR claimed Sheridan knew he would not be able to use the tax credit for this purpose, as he had already agreed a deal with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to use the money to pay outstanding Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and National Insurance (NI) contributions.

TPR confirmed before the company was compulsorily wound-up on September 20 2006, Sheridan eventually paid £19,914.73 into the Mediqal pension scheme in April 2006, but although this covered all of the unpaid employee contributions most of the employer contributions remained outstanding.

However, following its investigation TPR alerted the ICAEW - Sheridan's professional association - and at a disciplinary tribunal hearing on February 20 2008, Sheridan's conduct was judged to have brought "discredit" to himself, the Institute and the profession, and he was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,000.

Justin Wray, head of pensions administration and governance at TPR, said: "Pension scheme members have a right to expect their contributions to be paid in on time. Michael Sheridan knowingly misled his staff and the Pensions Regulator and it is right that the ICAEW has taken this action in view of his conduct."

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