Sir Amyas Morse asked if his Loan Charge Review is already in HMRC’s hands

Assurances during the Loan Charge Review that Sir Amyas Morse takes its independence seriously have been undermined by suggestions he has handed his final report to HMRC and not the chancellor.

Raising these suggestions (based on Tweets by a tax consultancy) directly with Sir Amyas, the Loan Charge Action Group has asked him to confirm that Sajid Javid, rather than the taxman, will be first to see his recommendations.

“The terms of reference of the review make clear that the recommendations will be provided to the chancellor of the exchequer,”  a ‘deeply concerned’ LCAG said yesterday.

“There is no mention [in the terms] of HMRC being permitted to see the report in advance and it would be quite wrong for this to happen, given the significant amount of evidence showing their failings, abuse of taxpayers and serial misconduct.”  

'Delay publication'

Even when the chancellor does receive Sir Amyas’ findings, he “must not be allowed to delay publication, to decide or to influence the publication date,” LCAG says, calling for immediate publication following Mr Javid’s receipt.

Next, the chancellor “must accept your recommendations and implement them without undue delay,” Sir Amyas is told.

And even if the former NAO chief does not recommend it, the January 31st declaration deadline for Loan Charge contractors should then be suspended.

“All related HMRC activity [should also be suspended] to allow time to implement the recommendations,” the LCAG letter to Sir Amyas adds. “[These two suspensions are] vital for people to have confidence in the independence of the review.”

'Entirely unfair'

Yet confidence in the review’s independence, in the event that Sir Amyas has already handed his report to HMRC before the chancellor (in breach of the terms), can only be restored by ‘immediate publication.’

“[And] in full,” LCAG says, “to allow all parties the same opportunity to examine its conclusions and recommendations. It would be entirely unfair for any party to gain early access to the report.”

Should HMRC or HMT be in receipt of the report already, the group warns Sir Amyas that its officials could “seek to influence the report and recommendations.”

'Counter briefings'

Or the government agencies could “prepare counter briefings against any recommendations that they do not support.”

The Loan Charge Reviewer is further told: “It is our view that you alone must decide the recommendations of the report and that HMRC and HM Treasury must not be permitted to influence or to alter them.

“Such early reporting to HMRC could be seen to compromise the independence of the review and damage its credibility.”

'Rumblings not true'

Last night, an HMRC spokesman strongly denied to ContractorUK that the Revenue was in receipt of the Morse Review -- or its recommendations.

“We haven’t [received either],” the HMRC spokesman said. “Any rumblings about that on Twitter are not true. [We’re] not sure where anyone is getting the idea from.”

Asked for clarification, an LCAG spokesman showed ContractorUK tweets by a tax consultancy stating that it had been ‘told as a fact’ that the Morse Review had concluded (it was originally scheduled to be published in mid-November), and now been handed to HMRC. 

'Separately verified'

Challenged online by contractors demanding proof, the consultancy tweeted it was not “gossip” by claiming that, in addition to its primary, unspecified source, receipt of the review by tax staff had been “separately verified [to it] by someone within HMRC.”

The consultancy declined to name the Revenue official, however, saying it did not want to put the person “in a difficult position.” All the tweets by the consultancy have now been deleted.

Asked for his take, LCAG’s Steve Packham reflected: “[We] campaigned hard for an independent review and were pleased when Sir Amyas Morse was appointed to lead one, but were worried that HMRC were set to staff it -- something that the Loan Charge APPG made clear was inappropriate.

“So the reports circulating [on social media] that HMRC have seen the report are deeply troubling, when they have a clear interest in changing it, so we have written to Sir Amyas for confirmation that it has not been seen by HMRC and that they will not see it until it is published.”

'End retrospection'

Packham was speaking after the Liberal Democrats used their 2019 election manifesto to say a Jo Swinson-led government would stop the Loan Charge and other forms of backdated tax legislation.

Specifically, in a section of their manifesto entitled ‘Fairer Taxes,’ the Lib Dems pledge to: “End retrospective tax changes like the loan charge brought in by the Conservatives, so that individuals and firms are treated fairly."

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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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