BOSSES at a former estate agents in Leigh have been banned for six years after a probe found they owed the taxman when their firm crashed.

Christopher Wilcock and Adam Balmer had built up Balmer Wilcock to the stage where it had branches in Atherton, Leigh and Tyldesley.

But problems began for the outfit, which had started out in Westleigh before moving later to Atherton, in the summer of 2018.

Administrators were called in and it was initially found that creditors were owed £666,302.

The collapse of the company prompted an inquiry by the Insolvency Service, which has now reported back.

Wilcock, 36, and Balmer, 35, both from Leigh, will now each be serving a company director disqualification until January and February 2025 respectively.

The pair were found to have submitted VAT returns, between May 2016 and November 2017, which did not truly reflect the estate agents’ trading position.

Six nil returns were claimed between 2016 and 2017 and the sum for June 2017 was only said to be £5,000.

Three payments totalling £16,000 were received by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for the period.

But a final VAT return of £310,887 was submitted by Balmer Wilcock’s accountant, according to the agency, in March 2018.

This resulted in a £299,887 demand from the taxman and a warning that a winding-up action was being considered.

The Insolvency Service says that while an error notification was filed by accountants, an inspection visit was later postponed by the firm.

And the next day HMRC issued a petition to wind up the venture.

The agency’s investigation found that while trade creditors were satisfied, while the firm was in trouble, the debts to HMRC increased.

An Insolvency Service official stated: “Between April 1, 2017, and July 18, 2018, when the current account was closed, net monies paid into this account totalled £1,442,235, while payments from the account totalled £1,483,702, of which at least £669,208 was paid to trade and expense creditors, £407,594 was paid for in respect of wages and £152,610.31 was paid to HMRC in respect of pay-as-you-earn and National Insurance contributions.”

An updated report on the estate agents’ liquidation by administrators Cowgills last October reported that one secured creditor was owed £150,000 but his debt may have been settled.

Unsecured claims totalling £539,773, including HMRC's, were still outstanding,