Jesse Norman reported to Sir Amyas Morse over Loan Charge suicide ‘denials’
Loan Charge campaigners have kept their word to report Jesse Norman to Sir Amyas Morse, over their concerns that the minister downplayed the number of suicides induced by the tax.
In a letter sent on Friday, a group of MPs asks the Loan Charge Reviewer to tell the Treasury that he has read the MPs’ reports of suicides totalling seven, not three as Mr Norman claimed.
The Loan Charge APPG also tell Sir Amyas he would be intervening to stop “further upset” to the families by “statements wrongly seeking to deny” the suicides of seven taxpayers.
The MPs’ call to intervene follows accusations that Mr Norman misled the House of Commons by saying there were less than half as many suicides than have actually happened.
“We have been notified of three suicides that may have some connection with the loan charge,” the minister said, at odds with reports to the APPG of seven being directly linked.
“Let me also remind…[MPs] that although these effects have been much bruited, there is also the question of collecting the several billion pounds of back tax that is due.”
Tax barrister Keith Gordon QC reflected online: “Do you Jesse Norman really believe that the ‘several billion pounds’ trumps human life?
“I thought you were better than that. Even leaving humanity aside, your briefing is wholly incorrect, and should make you further question the reliability of what officials are saying.”
The barrister believes the government should pause the loan charge to prevent more people killing themselves over a tax which is having its ‘appropriateness’ reviewed by Sir Amyas.
“When you were minister for transport, suppose there had been an enquiry into safety of 747s,” the QC began on Twitter to Mr Norman, who was in the post for the seven months to May.
“[Your comments to MPs suggest] you would let them carry on flying pending the outcome of the enquiry. I consider that to be worrying. Others might say reckless.”
'Chance to make a decision'
MPs on the Loan Charge APPG, some of whom say a ‘pause’ in policy does not constitute a ‘change’ in policy, agree with Mr Gordon.
“Use whatever influence you have to call on the Treasury to announce an immediate suspension of the Loan Charge, and all related HRMC activity”, they told Sir Amyas.
“[Your] review must examine why HMRC and the Treasury have refused to listen to the warnings about the risk of suicides that are now, tragically, being realised and why even now, they are so recklessly intransigent despite the confirmed tragedies.”
The MPs say the pause is particularly needed in relation to Accelerated Payment Notices and settlement payments, as these tend to feature in the reports of bereaved loan charge families.
Three Loan Charge APPG members have even shared with Sir Amyas one such testimony from the brother of the seventh loan charge contractor to have taken their own life.
The testimony states: “After getting out of hospital my brother was still suffering. The concerns about his financial situation as a result of the Loan Charge hadn’t gone away, but we thought he was safe.”
It adds: “Moving into the 2nd half of September things began to go downhill again. He was again becoming increasingly anxious about his financial situation and the future, triggered by the impending settlement of his Loan Charge.”
Reaching out on Twitter, the MP group led by Sir Ed Davey, Ross Thomson and Ruth Cadbury said yesterday: “The reality as Jesse Norman well knows is that HMRC are pursuing people for APNs related to loan schemes which would not apply without the Loan Charge.
“This needs suspending; it’s clearly wrong for this to be happening during the Loan Charge Review and risks more lives.”
The warning comes as the Loan Charge is this morning blamed for contributing to a “hidden debt crisis” in Britain, given that 681,000 people have now been forced to negotiate Time to Pay agreements because they cannot pay what HMRC deems that they owe.
“[The] ‘Loan Charge’ is…likely to have caused a surge in the number of taxpayers forced to ask negotiate ‘TtP’ arrangements with HMRC,” said UHY Hacker Young, which produced the figure.
“The Loan Charge was introduced by HMRC earlier this year to effectively claw back up to 20 years’ worth of tax…[and] to pay all the outstanding tax in one lump sum. That tax bill will be unaffordable to many”.