Treasury minister Jesse Norman agrees to 2019 Loan Charge meeting

Jesse Norman has finally agreed to meet Sir Ed Davey and other MPs who back the suspension and review of Loan Charge 2019.

The Treasury’s financial secretary said he hoped to meet with the Loan Charge APPG chair  “shortly,” following the weeks-old calls for such a meeting now emanating from 190 MPs.

But in a series of Tweets, Mr Norman said he was not agreeing to run a review, only that he would meet Sir Ed and other MPs to “understand a complex and politically contested topic.”

While many online praised Mr Norman for agreeing to educate himself on the topic – the loan charge, the Treasury minister took issue with claims his party has gone back on its word.

'Not true'

Responding to one Twitter user who said HMRC’s loan charge customers were promised a “proper” review but then the Tories “broke that promise,” Mr Norman corrected:

“No that is not true. The government was required in January under s95 of the Finance Act to publish a review into certain aspects of the LC. It did so on 26 March 2019”.

Andrea Leadsom MP, who was vying to be prime minister until late last week, has described that review as “limited.” Others, like WTT Consulting, have described it as “shameful.

'Certainty within the tax system'

Keith Gordon QC, another critic of the loan charge, has meanwhile met with Mr Norman, after the barrister reached out to the Father of Economics author when he was moved up from the Department for Transport.   

“Congrats Mr Norman on your promotion,” Mr Gordon tweeted at the time. “As a fan of Adam Smith, you'll appreciate the need for certainty within the tax system. You have inherited responsibility for the Loan Charge which is opposed by 200+ MPs and also the HoL [House of Lords]. Happy to discuss this with you”.

Yesterday, Mr Norman let on that he has also met with other loan charge critics, specifically the ICAEW, the CIOT and Lord Forsythe, a signatory of the EDM against the charge.

'Bullied'

“I am very grateful to all of them,” reflected the minister, who also said he has discussed the charge with HMRC and HMT officials.

“The next stage is for me to meet with Ed Davey MP and other parliamentarians who have led on this issue”.

Ruth Cadbury MP, vice-chair of the Loan Charge APPG, is one of those parliamentarians, and she has seen evidence purporting to show HMRC to have “bullied” its customers.

'Greatest stress'

Featuring in a new dossier published yesterday by the cross-party MP group, the evidence spans some 20 pages; is divided into nine categories and shows HMRC’s actual (albeit redacted) correspondence seeming to convey its ‘bullying’ conduct.

The latter appears to be best-illustrated by category four, example 10, where the MPs talk of a pattern of HMRC contacting affected customers at a time that would cause them the “greatest stress” .

“The reality is that HMRC are pursuing people aggressively and unreasonably,” Sir Ed Davey said after publication of the evidence, which shows HMRC contacting one taxpayer on their birthday.

“Ministers so far have utterly failed to realise that HMRC is out of control and are using the loan charge powers like robber barons. So we urge the new Treasury minister, Jesse Norman, to listen and suspend the loan charge.”

'Determined to see change'

Sir Ed, who co-published the dossier after a Loan Charge APPG meeting last Tuesday was used to gather evidence against HMRC, said he would meet Mr Norman to “press” him for both a suspension and independent review of the charge.

Tax dispute adviser Rhys Thomas, who attended that meeting, said: “The unity shown in the room by all parties was saddening due to the content [about HMRC’s treatment of loan charge contractors], but rewarding in exposing that something to rectify the situation must be done. It is clear that Sir Ed Davey is determined to see change”.

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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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