Highlanders doctor admits $140k tax fraud

Highlanders team doctor Asheer Singh faces up to five years’ imprisonment on tax-evasion charges....
Highlanders team doctor Asheer Singh faces up to five years’ imprisonment on tax-evasion charges. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
The Highlanders' team doctor has admitted dodging taxes to the tune of nearly $140,000 after he was snared by a random audit.

Asheer Singh, 37, who also works as a GP at Te Kaika, appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday, where he pleaded guilty to 15 charges laid by the Commissioner of the Inland Revenue under the Tax Administration Act.

Counsel Cate Andersen requested convictions not be entered against the defendant, paving the way for a possible discharge without conviction at his sentencing in August.

The court heard Singh’s company Dr A. Singh Ltd (DASL) was randomly selected for a compliance review in February 2021.

An investigator found the doctor had returned a profit of only $23,000 in the 2020 tax year, which raised "serious concerns" about whether he had declared all his income.

"Furthermore, how he had been able to introduce large sums of funds to DASL and how he had funded property purchases of $1.4m," court documents said.

An IRD officer called Singh and queried his tax returns.

Three weeks later the defendant provided a voluntary statement detailing his income omissions between 2019 and 2021.

On March 16, just weeks after the department’s probe began, Singh paid $118,948 to cover his admitted tax liabilities.

But the investigation continued.

The IRD requested information from the Highlanders, New Zealand Rugby (NZR), Otakou Health Ltd and Medical Assurance Society New Zealand, as well as various banks.

It revealed Singh was receiving income from the Super Rugby franchise and Otago Rugby for his role as team doctor, and from Te Kaika, a large amount of which had not been declared.

A review of one of three bank accounts showed the defendant had received nine payments from the NZR totalling $119,408 which were not returned as sales in the GST or income filings for his company.

Another $51,954, across 28 payments, from his GP work was also overlooked in Singh’s tax returns.

There were examples of mis-coding in accounting software too, the court heard.

"The defendant, by virtue of large amounts of funds introduced (some of which was actually sales), has been able to take large amounts of drawings that do not attract income tax," a summary concluded.

Singh declined to attend a voluntary interview.

The shortfall for GST and income tax was calculated to be $94,523, while the discrepancies in Working for Families tax credits and a student loan from the fraudulent returns came to $42,921 — a total of $137,444.

No reparation was sought as Singh had repaid all he owed.

The maximum penalty on each of the charges is five years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $50,000.

To keep his criminal record unblemished, Singh will have to prove to the court the consequences of convictions are out of all proportion to the seriousness of his offending.

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said he was aware of the situation but had no comment to make, and Te Kaika chief executive Matt Matahaere did not return calls.

Doctoring the books

Dec 2011: Dr Asheer Singh incorporates Dr A. Singh Ltd.

Feb 3, 2021: The company is randomly selected for compliance check; ‘‘serious concerns" raised.

Feb 25, 2021: Singh makes disclosures about two years of tax evasion.

Mar 16, 2021: He pays $118,948 but IRD inform him investigation will continue.

Apr 23, 2024: Singh pleads guilty to 15 charges.

Aug 30, 2024: Sentencing at the Dunedin District Court.