Anger and condolences, as a tenth taxpayer caught by the loan charge commits suicide
A tenth individual taxpayer, who was dealing with the HMRC Loan Charge, has killed themselves, ContractorUK has had confirmed.
Confirmation was sought, as the disclosure that the taxpayer followed nine others in committing suicide over the HMRC charge was made inexplicitly, by its CEO Jim Harra.
In a letter, Mr Harra spoke of HMRC making ten “referrals” to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, due to a disguised remuneration “customer” ‘sadly taking their own life.’
The letter was not published by HMRC, rather it was sent to Harriett Baldwin MP on January 6th, in her role probing the department’s activities as chair of the Treasury Select Committee.
Mr Harra apologises to Ms Baldwin for an apparent “delay” in providing the MP with the information she requested since, he states, his previous letter of December 15th.
That timeline -- of Harra last writing on Dec 15th and then writing again on Jan 6th with notification of the suicide, indicates that the taxpayer took their own life over Christmas.
'Another family devastated'
A lobbyist against the loan charge Steve Packham says it is “heart-breaking” to learn of another loan charge-related suicide, at such a time, and “of another family devastated”.
Founder of the Loan Charge Action Group (LCAG), Mr Packham said the blame lays squarely with the “reckless attitude of the government.”
“Considering how many times they have been warned to change course, the government is guilty of gross negligence, when they have known full well of the serious suicide risk of this immoral policy,” the lobbyist told ContractorUK.
MPs on an all-party parliamentary group against the loan charge yesterday said they have spent the last five years alerting ministers to the suicide risk, on “numerous” occasions.
“We’ve warned…[of the risk-to-life from] the draconian and unfair loan charge and associated HMRC action,” tweeted the Loan Charge and Taxpayer Fairness APPG.
“These warnings have all been wilfully ignored. There have now been ten suicides. A resolution is needed NOW.”
'Warned again and again -- all of them'
The MPs are demanding an inquiry into the loan charge.
They call the HMRC policy a “scandal,” arguing that it has undermined public trust in the tax system, been a wholesale failure (on the basis that tax scheme mis-selling is ongoing) and caused multiple suicides.
Declining to be named, a person backing that inquiry told ContractorUK: “The prime minister, chancellor, financial secretary to the Treasury – and Harra.
“They have all been warned again and again [that further suicides would result from the loan charge unless it was changed.]
“They have known that more suicides are likely, yet they simply ignore it. It’s callous, reckless, negligent.”
'Nothing was done'
The former head of the National Audit Office, who reviewed the Loan Charge, was also apparently unmoved when told some affected taxpayers won’t likely survive due to the financial ramifications of the charge.
Tax adviser Gordon Berry posted: “When I met Sir Amyas Morse (now Lord Morse) I did explain why I thought there was a very high risk of suicide if HMRC continued to be deliberately cruel in their terms in relation to the Loan Charge and wider disguised remuneration policy. To my knowledge nothing was done about that warning.”
Asked if HMRC’s Mr Harra disclosed the news of the tenth taxpayer to kill themselves over the loan charge in a sensitive enough manner, an HMRC spokesperson did not answer yesterday.
Nor did the HMRC spokesperson tell ContractorUK if officials have been in touch with the family of the taxpayer, whose identity, circumstances, and location have not been disclosed.
'Can add significant pressure for some people'
The HMRC spokesperson would only say: “We take the wellbeing of all taxpayers very seriously and recognise that large tax liabilities can add significant pressures for some people.
“For those who may need specialised help, our advisers encourage them to contact organisations such as Samaritans or Mind.”
An unimpressed Mr Packham, of LCAG begged to differ. “Despite all the spurious claims from the Treasury and HMRC about support and sympathy, we know that HMRC are still ruthlessly pursuing people to the point of financial ruin and mental breakdown, at the same time as not asking for a penny of the disputed tax from employers and promoters.”
'Anyone with a conscience at HMRC'
He then appealed in a statement to ContractorUK: “If there is anyone with a conscience within the higher echelons of HMRC, we urge them to speak about what is going on. Enough is enough.”
In his letter, Mr Harra gave the section containing his notification that loan charge suicides are now in double-figures the opaque title, “Lessons learned from customer loss of life cases.”
Dismayed at the detachment, a taxpayer reflected online: “Learnings? [They come] a bit late for those 10 poor people and all their families.
“[What is required is] a complete change to this organisation…and a complete removal of all that causes this. Additionally, someone [needs] to be held to account for this major loss of life.”
'HMRC and HMT continue to prioritise attempts to justify the loan charge'
ContractorUK understands that the loss of eleven lives due to the loan charge (up from the current ten lives lost) must be worrying MPs, as Tuesday saw the APPG receive an email from another taxpayer caught by the loan charge who identified themselves as suicidal.
“We’re shocked at the way HMRC and the Treasury continue to prioritise attempts to justify the Loan Charge over concern for the potentially disastrous impact on individuals,” the group reminded yesterday that it wrote in 2019. “This is unethical.”
The Twittersphere is alight with similar claims about the Revenue’s ethics when it comes to taxpayers and the loan charge.
'Start doing the lottery'
One of the messaging platform’s users wrote: “I raised a complaint with HMRC recently following a conversation [with a tax official] in which it was suggested that I ‘start doing the lottery’ in the hope to win enough money to pay the outstanding loan charge balance. They are bullying people and treating them with contempt and disrespect.”
At the time of writing, campaigners appear to be concentrating their efforts on getting chancellor Jeremy Hunt and prime minister Rishi Sunak to intervene.
In fact, despite one taxpayer commenting in a thread that “ten loan charge suicides is sadly no surprise” given that Mr Hunt and Mr Sunak were put on notice for more deaths due to the government policy, 125 parliamentarians are asking both No 11 and No 10 to nullify the charge.
'Sunak, Hunt, show some leadership'
LCAG’s Mr Packham thinks – hopes – it’s the way to go, to ensure the loan charge’s death count doesn’t rise above ten.
“We implore Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt to show some leadership and act now before any more lives are lost,” he said last night. “Surely ten deaths is ten too many and it is time for some commonsense and a resolution that avoids further tragedies.”
“The Government must seek a fair resolution now,” agrees Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Green.
“[This] news that a 10th person facing action related to the Loan Charge has taken their own life is heartbreaking. My thoughts are with their loved ones and all those suffering as a result of this deeply unfair policy.”
'Government must course-correct'
Tax lawyer Sarah Gabbai, who has co-authored the ‘fair resolution’ loan charge proposal despite not having a single client affected by the HMRC policy, described the tenth loan charge suicide as “heart-breaking -- and completely avoidable.”
“Enough is enough,” the lawyer appealed. “The government must course-correct without further delay.”