Hammond accused of lying about loan charge lobbyist
In a letter to committee chair Nicky Morgan MP, Mr Hammond is urged to provide “evidence to back up his claim” or, if not, table a “correction” to his “simply false” statement.
But, not picked up by the letter is another of the chancellor’s new bold claims – that the one LC taxpayer who HMRC says killed themselves may not have done so due to the charge.
“HMRC is aware of one case where, sadly, a taxpayer committed suicide, where there was an open loan charge investigation underway. That does not mean there is a link between the two events”, Mr Hammond said.
Also in his oral evidence to a review by the committee of Spring Statement 2019, he copied Mel Stride MP’s move of sounding sympathetic about the distress which tax bills (but not retrospective tax bills) can cause.
“Owing the Revenue a large sum of money [and] finding out that one will have to pay a large sum of money to the Revenue is a stressful and traumatising experience,” the chancellor said, later adding:
“I have a concern that I want to share with the committee. It is my understanding that the APPG, which carried out this review, is served by a secretariat, which itself includes people who, by their own admission, have been involved in the promotion of these avoidance schemes.
“That, it seems to me, is something that the House needs to think about very carefully, whether it is appropriate and whether it, in any way, affects the ability of the House to carry out its work through these APPGs.”
The Loan Charge APPG responded: “We hope that, as previously, the chancellor will correct the record.”
The APPG's chair Sir Ed Davey, who wrote the letter to Ms Morgan, explained: “The secretariat of the Loan Charge APPG is provided by the Loan Charge Action Group (LCAG).
“This was proposed and agreed by the APPG officers at the inaugural meeting on January 23rd and is clearly documented on the APPG register.
"The secretariat does not involve anyone who has been involved in the promotion of any avoidance schemes.”
On its website, LCAG describes itself as a not-for-profit organisation made up of people – including its three founding members -- who have been directly affected by the loan charge.
The chancellor’s accusation against it comes after a national paper claimed that a relative of Mr Stride, the minister responsible for the charge, sells tax insurance to HMRC's targets.
Stride Limited, run by the minister’s father and namesake Melvyn Stride, provides “tax investigation insurance” to firms selected for Revenue enquiries, the Telegraph reported.
But it was another MP -- not the financial secretary to the Treasury -- who Mr Hammond used his April 24th evidence session to bring up.
“[Scottish Conservative] Ross Thomson published a statement expressing regret that the published report [of the APPG] made a number of inaccurate allegations”, the chancellor said.
Mr Hammond added that he understood Mr Thomson also regretted that LCAG members with "personal interest in the issues, compiled and produced the report on behalf of the APPG and provided the staffing.”
Two days later however, on April 26th, there appeared to be no let-up in the Scottish Tory’s stance on the charge. Mr Thomson tweeted on Friday:
“Today I met with another constituent who’s [sic] life is being devastated by the loan charge. He is simply unable to pay the £80,000 demanded and he is seriously on the brink of bankruptcy. Another awful story of a real life, of a real person, being affected. #StopTheLoanCharge.”
By last night, more than 170 MPs had signed their names in a letter to the Treasury to support the same -- an immediate delay to the now in-force charge pending a judge-led independent review.