More suicides by Loan Charge contractors imminent, chancellor warned
At least five more contractors are on the verge of killing themselves over Loan Charge 2019, according to a phone line voluntarily set up to help prevent suicides induced by the April tax.
In a letter to Sajid Javid, the LCAG Helpline warn that the six existing suicides known to have been caused by the charge “will,” not “may, but will,” very soon run into double figures.
All five have, in confidence, shown “strong suicidal ideation” to the phoneline’s operators, meaning that each have stated that they intend to take their own lives, the chancellor is told.
“We are therefore pleading with HM Treasury to enact an emergency executive order prior to the expiry of the registration deadline by the end of September”, LCAG’s Helpline wrote.
“[The executive order should have the effect of being able] to suspend the Loan Charge deadline; cease pursuing APNs [and] cease enforcement actions.”
MPs on the Loan Charge APPG reflected: “This letter from the LCAG helpline is deeply worrying.
“HMRC were warned about the suicide risk from the Loan Charge ever since mid-2018 yet have ignored it and pressed on. Please Sajid Javid and Jesse Norman, listen and suspend the Loan Charge now, lives are at risk.”
'Matter of life and death'
“A suspension of all Loan Charge activity during the Loan Charge Review is a matter of life and death,” confirmed LCAG’s co-founder Steve Packham.
“[The five] will ensure that the[ir] suicide notes highlight the role of responsible ministers and HM Treasury’s unwillingness to suspend Loan Charge proceedings as the cause for them ending their lives.”
On Friday, HMRC said there was “no question whatsoever” that “large tax bills” could be “extremely stressful” for “those who receive them” -- a variant of a line Mel Stride often used when he was Treasury minister.
'Stressed and anxious'
It was the Revenue’s response to a written appeal by the bereaved families of loan charge contractors, each of whom signed a joint-letter to No 10 about their loved one taking their own life due to the tax.
The HMRC response also says: “We have looked carefully at the support that we offer people who are stressed or anxious and have put a range of measures in place.
“This includes support from a specialist team who are ready and trained to give extra help to those who needs it. They will also ensure that customers are aware of the services on offer from organisations including Mind and Samaritans.”
Parliamentarians on the Loan Charge APPG said: “We appreciate the sympathy HMRC have eventually shown with regard suicides caused by the Loan Charge.
“We hope that a thoroughgoing independent review, along with suspension of all LC activity during the review, will prevent further loss.”
Despite the HMRC response suggesting individual contractors on the receiving end of big tax bills as potentially deserving of sympathy, LCAG says in its alert to Mr Javid that is the families which need consideration too.
“The families of these Loan Charge victims have been punished and will be ostracised for the rest of their lives due to HM Treasury’s inaction and HM Revenue & Customs’ relentless pursuit in the chase for revenue that, frankly, does not exist,” the group says.
And the chancellor is told it’s getting worse. “The situation has been further exacerbated by HMRC’s recent reversal of tactics with regards to relentlessly pursuing APNs and commencing enforcement actions.
“People are currently, without a shadow of a doubt, on the edge. Literally. We know, with a great degree of certainty, that doing nothing now will increase the number of loan charge-related suicides, potentially significantly and soon.”
In signing off to Mr Javid, LCAG says that neither its helpline operators nor its triage team volunteers expect a reply from the chancellor. Instead, they will be “watching very closely” for an announcement.
“We are doing this on public record in the public interest because the pressure on us and our conscience has become unbearable,” the LCAG letter says.
“ Some of our own volunteers as well as tax advisors have got in touch and used our own mental health support because the situation is so dire. All because of lack of HM Treasury’s lack of empathy and incapacity to reading the warning signs. It’s an utter failure and someone somewhere will be held responsible for this, if not stopped now.”
A copy of LCAG’s letter has been sent to Sir Amyas Morse, who is leading an ‘independent’ review of the Loan Charge to gauge whether it is “appropriate response” to “tax avoidance” schemes which individuals “directly entered into.”