Tory leadership hopeful Andrea Leadsom apologises to bereaved Loan Charge family

Andrea Leadsom has been forced to deal with the “horrible” impact of Loan Charge 2019, in an emotional radio phone-in with the daughter of a contractor who committed suicide over the April tax.

The Tory MP for South Northamptonshire was meant to be using Tuesday night’s interview with LBC to promote herself and her campaign to become the next prime minister, which she officially launched yesterday.

But wrangling over Brexit and affordable housing – topics chosen by listeners calling in to quiz the MP about a Leadsom-led government, was put into perspective by ‘Gayle,’ who rang in from Bristol with her question.

'Disgusting treatment of contractors'

“I’m the daughter of a loan charge suicide victim,” Gayle began to Mrs Leadsom, a guest on LBC’s Iain Dale Show.

“The treatment of these contractors is disgusting. How many more people do we have to lose?”

She also asked Mrs Leadsom, who is not one of the 150 or so MPs to have a signed an EDM against the charge: “When will you put an immediate stop to the loan charge and review it?”

Following the Tory leadership contender’s initial answers, published separately on ContractorUK today, the show’s host Mr Dale pointed out that a review of the loan charge has already been carried out.

'Very reasonable'

“There has been a limited review – that’s true,” a knowledgeable-sounding Mrs Leadsom begun.

“And I have actually looked into the loan charge on behalf of particular constituents of mine, and HMRC have come back with very -- I think; very reasonable comments that they’ve made about the particular circumstances.”

The Loan Charge APPG, which on Tuesday afternoon hosted a packed meeting of MPs, advisers and volunteers concerned about the charge and HMRC’s treatment of taxpayers, said yesterday that members of the House of Commons have been misled. 

“It’s clear from today’s meeting that HMRC ‘settlement’ is not all voluntary as presented,” the group said online.

“People are being bullied and threatened into settling, with no beneficial terms and exorbitant interest, all with HMRC coercing people to sign due to the loan charge.”

'Consistent failings'

Also on Twitter, business adviser Gordon Berry said: “[My] client recently received voluntary settlement figures and HMRC have given her 30 days to reply.

“Or [the HMRC] 'offer' is withdrawn and she gets the loan charge instead. The fact that she asked HMRC for settlement figures 15 months ago is completely lost on them.”

Rhys Thomas, managing director of WTT Consulting told ContractorUK after he came out of the Loan Charge APPG meeting: “It was clear that tax advisers, volunteers, taxpayers and MPs alike were all aligned that there are fundamental and consistent failings within HMRC that are systemic and evidenced extensively.

“For so many parties with differing levels of involvement to share similar experiences, all of them negative, showed that there simply must be fundamental issues with how HMRC treat their customers.”  

'He could not take it anymore'

Among those issues is HMRC’s delay – between when loan charge customers go forward to HMRC and when they receive resolution. According to Gloria, HMRC delay can be fatal.

“[My dad] submitted on the deadlines. He was trying to work with them [HMRC] because he believed what they said -- ‘you’ve done wrong.’

“And he met the deadlines and he was met with, ‘It’ll be a few months.’ And from [then onwards]… he could not take it anymore. He couldn’t take it -- the waiting. [But] I am now waiting; my family are now waiting.”

'Very, very sorry'

After hearing Gloria’s heart-wrenching account, which Mr Dale commended her as “brave” for giving despite it being “horrible” to listen to because of its tragic circumstances, Mrs Leadsom said she was “very very sorry” to hear it.

She also said: “People do need certainty in their business affairs. But at the same time, it’s vital that people do pay their fair share of tax. So I would certainly commit to properly investigating the situation.”

Mrs Leadsom’s commitment to review the loan charge has won the Tory leader-hopeful some backing from the Loan Charge APPG which, taken with the MP’s expressed dislike of retrospective taxation, called it “significant.”

On Twitter, one contractor was less convinced. “Andrea you said [in your interview that] ‘HMRC have always been clear’ [but] this is untrue.

“HMRC tacitly approved these schemes and only in 2012 posted a warning on their website. Please, as you favour a review sign the Loan Charge APPG letter to Jesse Norman MP.”

'It ruined an indestructible man'

Although there are still hopes that Mr Norman will suspend the charge following his decision not to stand as Conservative leader, according to Gloria “no one seems to be listening.”

“They say ‘Yeah we’ll look into it; we’re going to review it.’ Why don’t… [they] speak to people who are living through it,” she told Mrs Leadsom. “I’ve read my Dad’s words. But... what it did to him -- it ruined an indestructible man. It robbed him.”

Volunteers who staff the phones at the Loan Charge Action Group and talk to taxpayers so in despair over the charge that they too want to kill themselves spoke at Tuesday’s meeting. WTT’s Mr Thomas, who was in the room listening to their accounts, called them “shocking.”

“The volunteers who make themselves available on the helpline should in no way have to be responsible for talking to people who are in such despair,” he said last night. “But they have helped saved lives and I have the utmost admiration for them.”

Editor's Note: Related --

Andrea Leadsom MP on Loan Charge 2019 -- radio interview transcript

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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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