Vigil held for nine lives lost to HMRC loan charge, amid ‘considerable political support’ for a fix

Two MPs attending a nine-person vigil for the biggest victims of the loan charge shows the “considerable political support” to fix it -- something ContractorUK has been told now exists.

That support’s starting pistol was fired in October, with uncharacteristic sympathy by HMT when its economic secretary spoke of the charge’s “emotional and psychological impact”.

LCAG has welcomed those words by Richard Fuller MP, who is in addition to the two MPs at the vigil, held in memory of the nine people who committed suicide over HMRC’s policy.

'Save a life, stop the loan charge'

But in attendance at the sombre event held outside HMRC’s head office, Tim Farron MP and Wendy Chamberlian MP, both of the Liberal Democrats, have got plenty in reinforcements.

Online, Sarah Green MP posted a photo of the nine-person vigil being joined by dozens of people with placards, calling HMRC to “Save a life, Stop the loan charge.”

Described by the Loan Charge & Taxpayer Fairness APPG as “very powerful”, the vigil involved nine people (each carrying a wreath for the nine lives lost), who eventually stood still outside HMRC’s office to bow their heads, as a bugler played a lament.

'Devastating impact'

“This unfair charge has had a devastating impact on the lives of several people in [my constituency],” tweeted Ms Green, also a Lib Dem. “It’s time to end the loan charge scandal.”

Almost 80 MPs now agree, as a letter to prime minister Rishi Sunak urging him to resolve the “unjust” loan charge and “avoid further tragedies” attracted its 78th signature on Friday.

Addressed also to chancellor Jeremy Hunt, the open-letter urges the government to act, “not just out of compassion,” but also commonsense.  

'Failed to stop tax avoidance scheme promotion'

“A resolution is in everyone’s interests, not only the tens of thousands of families stuck in the loan charge nightmare, but also in the interest of HMRC and the government, for whom the loan charge has become a significant problem, as well as being a wholesale failure as a policy.”

The letter continues: “As well as pushing people to take their own lives and causing numerous mental and family breakdowns, the loan charge has failed to stop the promotion of tax avoidance schemes.”

Yet exactly as an anonymous campaigner has already made clear, the expectation was that Mr Hunt would not respond by intervening against the loan charge at Autumn Statement 2022.

'Action on the loan charge'

Lobbyist the Loan Charge Action Group (LCAG) agrees.

“Autumn Statement was focused on the current national economic issues of how to minimise the recession and cost of living crisis, so we had no expectation of any action on the loan charge,” the group says.

Supporting this claim -- that any recourse for HMRC’s disguised remuneration customers was never envisioned for Nov 17th, a proposal for Mr Hunt to resolve the loan charge was only re-tabled to the chancellor on Nov 23rd.

'Considerable political support for a change of course on loan charge'

Crucially, LCAG’s co-founder Steve Packham now suggests that the chancellor might have little choice but to forensically study the ‘fair resolution’ proposal, which is backed by 55 experts in tax and accounting, plus Mr Hunt’s 80-odd parliamentary colleagues.

Or the chancellor will need to come up with some very good reasons for anything less.

“There continues to be considerable political support for a change of course in Westminster [on the loan charge,]” Mr Packham said last night in a statement to ContractorUK.

“Many MPs [are] still committed to this and to supporting affected constituents, so we will continue to work with then to campaign until the government listens -- and acts.”

'Awful legislation'

Unsure if the government quite grasps the fragile situation facing loan charge contractors and their families, a Twitter user asked: “How many more lives need to be lost to this awful legislation before parliament intervenes?”

“In nine cases there have been tragic suicides [already],” tweeted another user, almost as if indirectly answering, in their reaching out to ministers directly on the messaging platform.

The user added: “Liz Truss MP indicated the government would look again  at this issue in her hustings and…Richard Fuller MP recognised [the issues too]. Please act fast before there is another tragedy.” 

'Will this nightmare ever end?'

In a separate thread, one contractor sounded as if they are on the verge of giving up.

“Just received another demand from HMRC, having settled everything in 2019. I just don't know what to do any more,” the contractor wrote. “When will this nightmare ever end?”

“This…[is] why we need as many tax professionals as possible to sign our proposal,” says McDermott, Will and Emery tax lawyer Sarah Gabbai, the joint-lead of the ‘fair resolution’ loan charge proposal. “[That could] help affected taxpayers get out of this sorry mess and get HMRC onto the right path forwards.”

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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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