Reviews see buck passed from pillar to post, with no clarity for affected families
The All-Party Parliamentary Loan Charge and Tax Payer Fairness Group (APPG) has written to HMRC’s CEO, Jim Harra, seeking information on the status of investigations into suicides connected to the Loan Charge.
Dated 12th September, the letter posed 14 questions that the APPG requested Mr Harra respond to, “properly and fully”, to establish key details related to the ten suicides that have so far been linked to the controversial policy.
Despite the suicides having been referred by HMRC to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), the letter suggests “the IOPC has not investigated any of [them]”.
Instead, it has referred seven back to the tax authority. While reviewing the cases, the IOPC said that it did not consider the Loan Charge as a common or unifying theme. Each referral was considered individually.
The APPG said such an approach would render the investigation process “partial”, “of little use” and “in our view … negligent”. The body also said this approach would be “of little worth” to the families of those affected by the scandal.
As such, the group is seeking clarification over who is responsible for investigating the suicides, and “associated HMRC action against people affected”.
Loan Charge contravenes “statutory protections”
The Loan Charge is a retrospective tax on contractors who have previously been paid through disguised remuneration schemes.
These schemes paid workers via loans, which avoided income tax and national insurance payments on wages. Since coming to HMRC’s attention, this activity has been designated a method of tax avoidance.
Contractors who received disguised remuneration payments between 1999 and 2019 were captured by the legislation, with income received during this time treated as income in one year for tax purposes. This left many self-employed workers with unpayable tax bills.
The APPG was formed to hold HMRC to account for its impact. One of the group’s primary concerns is “the retrospective nature” of the policy, “which overrides tax law… and statutory protections for taxpayers”, according to its website.
APPG remains “very concerned”
As a result, the APPG continues to put pressure on HMRC over its handling of the fallout of the policy.
The group stated that it is “very concerned… that HMRC fails in some cases to follow its own procedures and processes regarding people it has itself classed as vulnerable”.
Its letter also reveals that HMRC has “identified learning regarding the way vulnerable customers are handled”. The APPG has asked for clarification on these learnings, as well as information on “what steps HMRC is taking to address this”.
The body wants to see the results of the internal investigations, and for evidence “to show that HMRC is learning from any failings in these tragic cases”. Given the lack of transparency so far, the APPG has also asked HMRC to confirm whether it has been made aware of any further suicides linked to the Loan Charge. Among the questions aimed at HMRC’s CEO are the following:
- Regarding the 10 suicides HMRC referred to the IOPC, did HMRC carry out internal investigations into the three cases recommended for internal investigation by the IOPC?
- What if any action did HMRC take in the other four cases where the IOPC had not recommended an investigation, but said that HMRC should take appropriate action?
- Did HMRC contact any of the families and/or tax advisers/other professional representatives of the deceased as part of the three internal investigations carried out?
The letter is signed by the APPG’s co-chairs: Sammy Wilson MP, Greg Smith MP, and Baroness Kramer. You can read the letter in full here.
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