Insolvency practitioner, Stephen Grant, from accountancy firm Azets, reported an increase in 'fresh air invoicing' by UK companies facing financial hardship.

The deceitful practice involves firms raising an invoice for nonexistent goods or services.

To expedite funds, these companies issue an invoice to the finance company, who presuming delivery of goods or service, advances 70 to 90 per cent of the stated invoice value.

READ MORE: Romsey and District Society celebrates 50th anniversary

Azets, acting on behalf of lenders and holding offices in Hampshire, including Southampton, Romsey, Winchester, Portsmouth and Havant, has noted an uptick in such cases.

Stephen Grant, an insolvency practitioner with Azets, said: "Our message to businesses in Hampshire is to seek professional advice immediately and not to contemplate fresh air invoicing to get out of a financial hole. It is fraud.

"There is an uptick in fresh air invoicing. When times are tough, it is an easy way to get money. This is a growing trend, particularly around asset-based lending and fraud, which is a threat to lenders.

"We are seeing a number of businesses under pressure and strain at the minute, which may cause them to risk fresh air invoicing, often to pay front-of-queue creditors."