MPs accuse HMRC of slander over Loan Charge suicide allegation

A war of words has broken out between MPs and tax officials, after the latter alleged that the Loan Charge APPG failed to pass on the right details to HMRC about suicidal taxpayers.

Rejecting the allegation as a ‘disgraceful, misleading, outright lie,’ MPs insisted 70 cases of people consenting to be named to HMRC as mulling suicide due to the charge were sent on.

The MPs say they were honouring an agreement they made in the presence of the chancellor Philip Hammond, who they have now written to for an intervention, apology and correction of record in an official Treasury report.

'Sufficient'

That report – a ‘review’ of the loan charge which has been widely condemned as a “whitewash,” effectively accuses Lib Dem MP Sir Ed Davey of reneging on the agreement.

It states: “The Chair of the APPG [Sir Ed Davey] had volunteered a commitment, when meeting the Chancellor and the Financial Secretary, that these testimonies would all be provided on the basis that the taxpayers concerned would give their consent for HMRC to respond transparently to the many particular personal tax issues that they raised.

“Unfortunately, that commitment was not sufficiently met, and none of the submissions have been provided on that basis. The government is therefore not able to respond to the detail of those cases in this report.”

Use of the word ‘sufficient’ may be telling, as it could signify that the Treasury wanted HMRC to have received explicit permission, in writing, from each and every of the 70 individuals.

The APPG said: “[We] sent 70 written submissions to Ruth Stainer of HMRC on March 8th and made clear that all the named taxpayers had given permission to have their cases shared with HMRC.”

Taxman does 'not accept the suicide claims'

But even if HMRC had received express permission directly from all 70, the prospect of their accounts making a material difference looks slim, as those which were traced were disbelieved.

“Where it has been possible to check the submissions against HMRC’s records,” the Treasury says in its report, “HMRC does not accept the claims that are made in a number of the cases.”

Ruth Cadbury MP, vice-chair of the APPG wrote on Politics Home: “Considering that they [HMT] and HMRC now know of suicides resulting from this policy and still refuse to listen, they are also showing a callous indifference, which is shameful.

“Combine that with the way the Treasury and HMRC have dealt with this issue from start to finish, their conduct runs counter to the core principles of public service.”

'Nor a single response'

In a letter to Mr Hammond, the APPG indicates that if there was a problem with the 70 submissions, then officials could have replied with a view to resolving issues on consent or other areas.

“HMRC have not written to the APPG about any of these submissions,” the MPs say. “The APPG received no further correspondence, nor a single response, from HMRC regarding these submissions…[even though] it was expected that HMRC would then write to the APPG, as discussed, on each one.”

Letter signatory Sir Ed Davey said: “We have written to the chancellor demanding that the Treasury retract this untrue accusation and issue an apology. 

“It’s deeply worrying that ministers have signed off this false claim and I’m afraid yet another example of the chronic misinformation coming out of the Treasury.”

'Out-of-control'

Ms Cadbury, a Labour MP said: “To say we haven’t done what we said we would is a downright lie and another attempt to obscure the reality of this awful policy.” 

Her co-vice chair, the Scottish Conservative’s Ross Thomson MP said: “To now come out with a barefaced lie about the Loan Charge APPG just shows how out-of-control they [HMRC] are. It’s time for a proper investigation into HMRC and the culture within the organisation as we cannot have a situation whereby a public body is issuing misleading and in this case false statements.”

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