HMRC to investigate itself over Loan Charge suicide

The taxman has been told to investigate the one official suicide of Loan Charge 2019, albeit without any independent oversight.

So he should probe himself to gauge if his “contact with the individual” in question who was subject to an HMRC investigation, and who was a vulnerable customer, was “appropriate.”

Such is the recommendation of the Independent Office of Police Conduct, which was notified of the HMRC customer committing suicide -- after HMRC initially dodged the issue – in March.

'Marking your own homework'

But the IOPC now recommending an investigation internal to HMRC, largely because the office cannot prove human rights laws have been breached, has outraged affected parties.

“I tend to do rather well when I get to mark my own homework,” a contractor wrote on social media . “If there’s no independence in the investigation, it will be a whitewash. Again.”

Lobbyist the Loan Charge Action Group agreed, saying in a statement: “An independent review of this tragic case is essential to ensure that another whitewash does not happen.”

'Whitewash'

Both comments allude to the Treasury’s own review being widely seen as purposefully misconstruing the charge, and “shamefully”  not dealing with the issues taxpayers face.

In addition, Mel Stride MP joined a recent House of Commons debate on the April 2019 tax, in which he was heckled “whitewash” after he read out the government’s response.

Told yesterday about the appeals for the investigation into the appropriateness of HMRC to be conducted by a party other than HMRC, an IOPC official acknowledged their existence.

'We have carried out our role'

But the office told ContractorUK it was now a matter for the Revenue, given that “we have carried out our role in deciding whether an IOPC investigation is required.”

The IOPC spokesman also said: “We do not consider Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights is engaged as there is no available evidence to suggest HMRC staff knew of a real and immediate threat to the individual’s life, and therefore an investigation by HMRC is appropriate and no IOPC investigation is required.”

Asked about any consequences for HMRC if it fails to investigate, the office said tax staff have already vowed to run the probe, and that “some learning” has already been identified.

'If any evidence arises'

“We will maintain oversight by reviewing HMRC’s investigation report once completed,” the IOPC spokesman added. “We have instructed HMRC to re-refer the matter if any evidence arises of conduct issues for any members of its staff.”

The investigation by HMRC is expected to probe whether “suitable” measures and adjustments were put in place for the vulnerable customer subject to a tax investigation.

By carrying out the investigation itself, the hope is the Revenue will be able to identify whether any changes in its practices are required, although the IOPC spokesman was unable to say what those changes might look like.

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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