Charity agency Bluefrog Ltd goes bust over £2m VAT bill

marie currieCharity agency Bluefrog Ltd has gone into liquidation owing over £2.4m – including a VAT bill of £2.1m – but has drawn criticism from rivals after its main director set up another agency, trading under the name of Bluefrog Fundraising.
According to filings posted on Companies House by liquidator Yerrill Murphy, Bluefrog Ltd had total assets of £86,908, but it owed creditors a total of £2.4m.  The firm has two registered directors, Mark Philips and company secretary Paul Purcell.
The agency was launched in 1997 and according to its website – which is still operational – it has a staff of over 30. Its clients have included Care International, Childrens’ Society, Marie Curie Cancer Care, WSPA and Sense.
Bluefrog Fundraising was set up in October last year by Bluefrog Ltd director Philips, who is also a columnist for Third Sector magazine.  It is not known how many of the original staff have been re-employed by the new agency or which clients it now works for.
One rival agency chief said: “It’s unfortunate that an agency should avoid paying VAT this way. Charities benefit from very generous VAT rules around direct mail but the industry does itself few favours by not paying HMRC when it’s due, legally or not. The recent case when Brightsource had to settle a huge bill with HMRC must be making the people who write the VAT rules think about this closely. With all the other issues charities are facing, this the last thing we’d want to read about in the Daily Mail.”
Arguably the most notorious charity agency boss is Chris Stoddard,  who is reported to have left a trail of failed businesses over the past decade.  In 2010 Stoddard’s company CSDM went into administration, leaving some creditors unpaid. Its assets were acquired from the administrators by his next company, CSDM Fundraising, which also went into administration, in 2013.
According to Companies House, Stoddard has held 37 director appointments; he remains a director of 11 companies, has resigned from 10 and 16 of the companies have been dissolved. However, he has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

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