Lib Dem loan charge pledge will ‘give Tories a problem at the polls’

The Conservatives’ failure to use their 2019 manifesto to vow action against the loan charge will drive contractors caught by it to vote Liberal Democrat, a media commentator predicts.

Speaking in a televised interview, LBC’s Iain Dale said that if the vow in ‘Jo’s Plan’ to axe the charge was not matched by the Tories, it would give the party “a problem” at the polls.

Published yesterday following Mr Dale’s comments to Sky News, the Conservative party’s manifesto makes no mention of the charge, let alone any bold pledge to abolish it outright.

'Natural Tory voters'

Such a pledge would have been undermining however, because Sir Amyas Morse’s review of the charge, which the government commissioned, is still yet to report any of its findings.  

In his interview, Mr Dale spoke of the review, albeit only to example when a government wishes to convey interest in changing something that, privately, they don’t wish to change.

“Most of those people [taxpayers affected by the loan charge] would be natural Conservative voters,” said the LBC host, who has used his own show to press Tory MPs about the charge.

“But if they [the Conservatives] don’t match that promise [made in ‘Jo’s Plan’ to abolish the charge], most of those people are going to be voting Liberal Democrat”.

'Divisive'

Following the Lib Dem pledge, the Loan Charge Action Group used a media briefing to point out that it was the Conservatives who introduced the “divisive” 2019 Loan Charge legislation.

Sounding more politically circumspect, LCAG’s co-founder Steven Packham said: “We welcome the Liberal Democrat commitment to end retrospective tax changes like the loan charge and to ensure that individual workers are treated fairly.

“In its present form, the loan charge evidently undermines the rule of law, overrides statutory taxpayer protections, and is being used by HMRC to aggressively target innocent workers who have not broken the law instead of the employers and agencies it was intended to tackle. It is clearly unfit for purpose.”

'Beefed-up tax unit'

Far from curtailing HMRC’s powers, though, the Conservatives’ manifesto pledges to give the department a “beefed-up” unit -- to tackle evasion under a “new anti-tax avoidance and evasion law.”

The Tory manifesto adds that the maximum prison term for individuals convicted of the biggest tax frauds will be doubled to 14 years; existing anti-evasion and avoidance measures and powers will be consolidated, and new measures introduced to “end tax abuse in the construction sector.”

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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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