Contractors, it's time to stand against Bad Chancellor Philip Hammond over Loan Charge 2019

It’s 2019 contractors but bear with us, because we must hark back a bit to remind us all of a seminal time in our nation's history that speaks to today’s Loan Charge, writes Steve Packham, co-founder of the Loan Charge Action Group (LCAG).

In 1215, after King John of England violated a number of ancient laws and customs by which England had been governed, the Barons of England forced him to sign the Magna Carta, which formed the basis of human rights and was developed and adopted over time in England and around the world.

Magna Carta translates from Latin as “the Great Charter of the Liberties.” These included the rights of all free citizens to own and inherit property and crucially, to be protected from excessive and unfair taxes.

So how ironic that 800 years later, the MP for Runnymede, the man who is the current chancellor of the exchequer, has effectively ripped up both the Magna Carta and -- in our view -- the UK Rule of Law, in what we regard as a grubby bid to seek money for the government while claiming to be clamping down on tax avoidance, at the same time as letting his rich friends and global companies (the barons of today perhaps), pay a scant amount into the UK coffers.

This Saturday, June 15th, protesters from our Loan Charge Action Group are travelling to Philip Hammond’s constituency of Runnymede and Weybridge to tell his constituents the truth about this chancellor, and the arrogant way that both he and his Treasury Ministers are undermining the basic rights and certainties understood as sacrosanct in our country and constitution. 

The government brought in the controversial loan charge legislation in the Finance Bill in 2016, introducing a retrospective tax going as far back as 1999, with people affected now being be hit with life-changing bills for years and sums that HMRC otherwise have no legal right to demand. There are thousands of people and families facing ruin, people who never broke the law and who sought and took professional advice and declared everything to HMRC.

All those who value our democratic freedoms, whether or not they are directly affected by the loan charge or not, should join us at the historic Magna Carta monument to call for the sacking of ‘Bad Chancellor Philip,’ (the modern-day equivalent of Bad King John) for introducing the discredited loan charge tax. The charge threatens to bankrupt tens of thousands of UK workers -- and pensioners, and has already led to several suicides.

Under the banner, “Philip Hammond has ripped up our UK rule of law. SACK HIM!” the LCAG protest will mark the 804th anniversary of the 'The Great Charter', which established the principle that everyone is subject to the law, even the king (and yes, even the chancellor too), and guarantees the rights of individuals, the right to justice and the right to a fair trial.

Yet with the loan charge all of these things are now ripped up, because those facing the charge are being both pursued for tax that HMRC are out of time to demand, and being left with no right to defend themselves in court or to appeal. Criminals convicted of an offence get the chance to appeal against the sentence. But with this uniquely draconian piece of legislation, those facing the loan charge have no right of appeal and worse still, are being forced to ‘settle’ with HMRC for tax that has never been proven that they owe. Plus 4.25% interest, AND they must sign away all their rights in law as part of the price of doing so, or they will be hit by the unconstitutional loan charge and the extra money and penalties that entails.

If the loan charge is allowed to stand, then no UK citizen can ever again have certainty that the law will not be changed in the future to tax them on what HMRC could not legally tax them on at the time. This is indeed against the basic principles of the Magna Carta.

Let’s just contemplate what could be next under this principle. If the speed limit on a road is changed to 50mph -- from 60mph, will the Department for Transport introduce a ‘60 mile an hour charge’ for those who previously drove at what was then the speed limit? Will the Department for Health ban smoking, then fine people for smoking twenty years ago?

In all seriousness, thankfully there are more and more MPs and peers who now realise the sinister implications of this approach, and who are fighting back on behalf of the people, our constitution and our democracy.

The Loan Charge All Party Parliamentary Group, led by MPs Sir Ed Davey, Ruth Cadbury and Ross Thomson have been raising the issue consistently in parliament. An oversubscribed debate that saw the largest ever number of MPs speaking in a Backbench Business Committee Debate saw the House of Commons pass a motion to halt the Loan Charge and commission an independent review (something that very tellingly Ministers have so far been keen to avoid).  David Davis, who once very nearly was leader of the Conservative Party, and former Cabinet Minister Cheryl Gillan say that if the government does not listen to the will of parliament, it needs to be made to. So it seems the Magna Carta does have a chance.

Ultimately though, we need a more honourable chancellor who will tax fairly and lawfully.  So if you’re free this Saturday, whether you are a contractor or a freelancer facing the loan charge or not, do join us and stand up for democracy, for human rights, for the Magna Carta. It’s time to depose Bad King’s John successor. It’s time to get rid of the loan charge of Bad Chancellor Philip and defend our rule of law. The next 800 years of our democracy depends on it.

Editor’s Note: The LCAG protest on Saturday June 15th commences at 12.00 on Weybridge High Street (adjacent to Lloyds Bank / KT13 8DA) before moving on to Egham, Church Road by Waitrose (TW20 9HZ) and arriving at 16.00 Magna Carta Monument, Runnymede (TW20 9LU).

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Written by Steve Packham

Steve Packham is a contractor, and founder member, executive committee member and spokesperson for Loan Charge Action Group (LCAG).
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