Another Loan Charge contractor on suicide watch triggers urgent appeal to Boris Johnson

Another fraught Loan Charge contractor being on the verge of taking their own life has triggered an “urgent appeal” to Boris Johnson and his ministers to intervene against the tax.

In a Twitter appeal to the prime minister, chancellor Rishi Sunak and Treasury minister Jesse Norman, the Loan Charge APPG said the suicidal individual contacted them at night.

The MP group, which has over 230 members, said they directed the HMRC customer to the Samaritans that very night, as the person said they planned to kill themselves the following day.

'Draconian'

“Not many APPGs operate evening and weekends”, the parliamentary group reflected, “but we do, due to the real and serious threat to life from the draconian loan charge.”

Also operating unconventional hours though is HMRC, which the MPs have written to upon evidence from Loan Charge contractors that tax officials are pursuing them at weekends.

“Who would welcome a call from HMRC over the weekend and when many people’s tax advisers aren’t likely to be available?,” asks a source who helped coordinate the letter.

“Also note, as the APPG’s letter says, HMRC are calling [affected] people from withheld numbers, and calling them seven days a week -- yet their ‘helpline’ is only Monday to Friday.”

'Contractors' last chance is September 30th'

Many of the calls are likely aimed at getting contractors to pay what the Revenue believes they owe, ahead of the September 30th deadline for the three-year split payment.

“In HMRC’s own words, [it’s] contractors’ ‘last chance’ to settle their use of disguised remuneration schemes without suffering the loan charge,” says advisory WTT Consulting.

“At this stage, it must be remembered that the loan charge ‘happened’ on April 5th 2019 and therefore theoretically, those that have not settled at this point have incurred the charge.”

'HMRC inertia'

But because of the Morse review, the advisory’s tax investigations director Tom Wallace explained, plus “HMRC inertia,” the Revenue is using its discretion to, in effect, tell its customers:

“Those that settle by September 30th 2020 can still stop the loan charge from applying to them – in a sort of discretion to retrospectively disapply retrospective legislation,” he says.

“For those that wish to settle then, the deadline should most definitely not be ignored. 

“There is much evidence to suggest there will be no extension past this date and that the message in HMRC, from upon high, is that everything must be tied up by that date.”

'Government intends no more concessions'

A campaigner last night agreed that the mood music from the government for those seeking a removal of retrospection, or even just a reprieve from the September deadline, is jarring.

“It’s been clear all along that the government intends not to make any more concessions,” the campaigner said.

“But that’s why ongoing campaigning is so important. Any further changes will come from pressure from MPs… [at the Finance Bill’s] Report Stage.”

In its submission to the bill, the Loan Charge Action Group takes considerable issue with the existing changes – unveiled in December 2019 in the Morse Review.

'100% certain of more suicides'

But in light of the suicidal contractor who contacted the Loan Charge APPG, the submission also reads as eerily prophetic, as it was written before the contractor reached out.

“[We have] raised the risk of further tragedies on many occasions,” LCAG wrote.

“We believe that only the ongoing support from MPs and peers has given people the hope that the law will eventually be changed and provide relief from this nightmare.

“This has so far prevented more suicides…[but] if nothing more is done, LCAG are 100% certain that there will be more suicides.”

'Heartless'

Taking to Twitter this week, the group said: “How many times will [the] risk of more loan charge suicides be ignored by this heartless government?

“Cross-party MPs, Lords and press all predicted loss of lives, but Boris Johnson failed to stop retrospective tax. Thousands [are] crying out [to] stop the loan charge.”

In a follow-up post (which states that Loan Charge contractors feeling suicidal can text ‘LCAG Help’ to 81025), LCAG also messaged Mr Norman to ask why he, and others, were “not shocked” at the prospect of another person ending their own life due to the tax policy.

'Not planning to change our relationship with Jesse Norman'

Earlier this month, the group pointed out that, despite scoffing at the deaths of seven people so distressed by the loan charge's implications for them that they killed themselves, the Treasury minister holds a senior position with the Herefordshire branch of Mind.

The mental health charity has since responded: “We have no say in who our local Minds work with. We make sure that governance policies, for example, are robust but it’s not our role to challenge or overrule decisions that our local Minds make.”

In a statement, the charity added: “It is for Herefordshire Mind to decide who they work with and to answer questions or complaints that arise from those decisions. We have spoken to Herefordshire Mind…,[and] as we understand it, they are not planning to change the nature of their relationship with [Mr Norman], which we understand and accept.”

'Strength of feeling'

Mind UK also said it was “grateful” to those who have raised the “important issue” of the 2019 Loan Charge, and acknowledged the “strength of feeling” of those affected.

The charity concluded: “Unfortunately this isn’t something we are able to actively campaign on at this time, given our current resources.”

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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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