A BUS firm boss who was left owing the taxman more than £500,000 has been banned from being a director for 11 years.

Blackrod-based UK Coachways was also found to have wrongly over-claimed more than £54,000 in bus pass revenue before it went under in early 2018.

An inquiry into the Station Road firm by the Insolvency Service has now led to director Michael Smith, 34, of Grosvenor Way, Horwich, being disqualified until 2030.

One of the key findings against Smith and Coachways, which ran a number of school services and outlying routes like the 533 to Egerton and the 577 to Middlebrook, was concerning VAT.

An investigation found “inaccurate information” had been forwarded to HM Revenue and Customs regarding their entitlements to repayments between 2012 and 2015.

When liquidators were called in, the company owed nearly £400,000 in VAT, interest and penalties, it was discovered.

Mr Smith is said to have admitted he knew about the submission of inaccurate VAT returns during a meeting with HMRC in October 2015.

Around the same time, bank statements showed the firm paid out £76,881 to Mr Smith or members of his family and £68,850 to unidentified sources.

Another strand of the probe focused on a joint venture agreement between Coachways and Greater Manchester Travelcards Ltd (GMTL) over bus pass entitlements.

Under the JVA, Coachways was required to submit passenger returns to GMTL about the use of bus passes on its services. This would determine how much the Blackrod firm was entitled to be paid.

But an audit of their figures, started in September 2017 uncovered a string of inaccuracies.

An Insolvency Service spokesman said: “The investigation into the PRs submitted by Coachways was concluded on 29 July 2018.

“It was determined that Coachways had received overpayments totalling £54,042 that it was not entitled to as a result of the inaccurate PRs (passenger returns) submitted.”

The inquiry was also told that Coachways had liabilities totalling £747,046 at the time of the liquidation.