Loan charge group insists HMRC knew contractor was suicidal

A support group for suicidal loan charge contractors has questioned a police body’s finding that there is no evidence that HMRC knew a customer was contemplating killing themselves.

The volunteer team behind the Loan Charge Action Group said in a statement to ContractorUK that the IOPC’s conclusion that no such evidence exists was an “absolute lie.”  

“There were 60 out of the approximate 900 submissions to the Loan Charge APPG by loan charge individuals, saying they had suicidal thoughts.

“But HMRC refused to [properly] acknowledge the APPG report, even though the submissions [about suicide] clearly stated the wish for them to be made public.”

Although the latter is partially disputed -- the Treasury claims “several” submissions had “specific” wording requesting non-disclosure, the LCAG statement represents the first criticism of the IOPC investigation.

'No available evidence'

Following the suicide of the person who was under investigation by HMRC being reported to the IOPC (The Independent Office for Police Conduct), the conclusion was that further investigation was required.

But the office recommended that the investigation could just be internal to HMRC, on the basis that “there is no available evidence to suggest HMRC staff knew of a real and immediate threat to the individual’s life.”

It is this finding from IOPC that LCAG is now disputing.

'More lives could be lost'

“There are up to 100,000 [people affected by the loan charge],” added LCAG’s statement, disagreeing with HMRC’s estimate of just 50,000 people being affected, issued before the charge took effect.

“So there is a real possibility that more lives will be lost. And HMRC are fully aware of this.”

Asked for its reaction to IOPC recommending that HMRC can investigate itself over the HMRC customer who took their own life, a tax advisory declined to comment, citing a wish to respect the individual’s grieving family.

'Unreasonableness'

Another advisory is meanwhile having its insights indirectly questioned because since saying HMRC is flexible with customers signalling settlement, MPs say new evidence shows the exact opposite.

“We’ve been sent more evidence to show the intransigence and unreasonableness of HMRC regarding ‘settlements’ to people facing the loan charge.

“It’s clear the impression being given by senior officials and ministers about how ‘helpful’ they are is false,” said the MPs, members of the Loan Charge APPG.

'Scandal'

Outlining the evidence, LCAG said: “One of our members has been asked by HMRC to pay £9,000 a month -- for 2 years to settle the loan charge

“[And] this person currently has no income. This is the reality of the loan charge scandal despite what HMRC would have MPs believe.”

Not all MPs, however. Since it was launched by Stephen Lloyd MP, an Early Day Motion expressing concern over the charge has attracted 154 signatures.

'Poor policy'

Even more MPs have now signed an open letter to Treasury minister Mel Stride demanding a review of the charge. Among them is Iain Duncan-Smith, a former Conservative Party leader.

“I completely agree this is a poor policy,” the Tory MP wrote in an op-ed for his local paper.

“Many constituents have come to me with stories about the severe damage this has already done. There is a wide-reaching consensus in Westminster that this policy must be reversed before more lives are ruined.”

'Plenty of warnings'

The consensus appears to extend beyond Whitehall too, but one veteran contractor last week suggested he could see why the Treasury remains unwilling to bend.

“There were plenty of warnings about how and when using schemes was going to be a bad idea some years ago, and the message -- even from HMRC -- has been fairly unequivocal, keep away from anything that promises anything over standard levels of return or that you don’t understand,” he said.

The contractor was speaking in wake of recent criticism of IPSE, which was accused of failing to take a stance on the loan charge. But like the body, the contractor found fault with the April tax.

'More equitable'

“The tragedy is that the NHS and other workers who got pitchforked into IR35 territory by the off-payroll rules will not have had any sight of  any of those [historical HMRC] warnings.

“So while a degree of caveat emptor applies”, the career-contractor said, “this is far more a mis-selling scandal than a mass attempt at tax evasion. On that basis, HMRC should not even be involved. The loan charge itself… needs to be binned and a more equable solution found -- one that doesn’t penalise the victims.”

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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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