Tomorrow, Wednesday, 27th February 2019, individuals and families are travelling to London to take the message to the Prime Minister that the Government’s draconian Loan Charge will destroy the lives of thousands of families unless the Treasury agrees to change or delay the controversial policy which is due to take effect on 5th April 2019.
Thousands of families are facing ruin, including bankruptcy, loss of homes and pensions due to the Loan Charge which breaks normal legal convention and allows HMRC to go back twenty years. It allows HMRC to demand huge tax bills for arrangements that were legal and declared to them at the time.
With Treasury Ministers refusing to listen so far, a group of five people from families facing the Loan Charge, including two children whose parents are facing ruin, will be going to 10 Downing Street to hand in their letters. They will also take with them letters from many others of the estimated 100,000 families affected.
The All-Party Parliamentary Loan Charge Group is conducting its second inquiry session on the same day as the protest. Individuals facing the Loan Charge are appearing as witnesses before the APPG inquiry, which consists of 67 cross-party MPs and peers. The APPG was formed after the Government was forced to concede and offer a review into the Loan Charge. The APPG is concerned that the Treasury review will be another HMRC whitewash.
The #STOPtheLoanCharge – Save Lives! protest is being organised by the Loan Charge Action Group (LCAG) who represent thousands of people facing the Loan Charge. It is also being supported by the Independent Health Professionals’ Association (IHPA) as temporary nurses and doctors are caught by the charge. Some nurses are facing bankruptcy. There is a growing risk to mental health and personal wellbeing given the level of the HMRC demands that some people are facing.
The Loan Charge victims – who include social workers, teachers, doctors and nurses as well as IT contractors – followed professional advice and submitted their tax returns every year. HMRC never challenged them at the time. They now face life-destroying tax bills that they cannot pay and cannot fairly appeal.
An LCAG survey of 500 people found that 71% of people facing the Loan Charge are facing bankruptcy. Even going by the Treasury’s own conservative estimates of 50,000 people, this would mean 35,500 people facing bankruptcy as the only way out of the retrospective tax nightmare.
The same survey revealed that 49% face losing their home, and 30% face losing their career and income due to the the actions of the Treasury and HMRC.
Many victims of the Loan Charge will be unable to work again, and ironically will not be in a position to pay tax in the future. Some will be forced onto state benefits, others have said they will have no choice but to emigrate to avoid the devasting impact of the Loan Charge.
There is an identified suicide risk as a result of the Loan Charge, something that both HMRC and Treasury Ministers HMT have repeatedly been made aware of. To date they have refused to set up a 24-hour helpline for people needing urgent counselling, leaving LCAG volunteers to operate a volunteer triage service. From the LCAG survey figures, a huge 68% of those facing the Loan Charge admitted to be suffering from depression and anxiety. A shocking 39% – well over a third of all affected – reported suicidal thoughts and a risk of self-harm.
It has emerged that neither the Treasury nor HMRC did a proper impact assessment, failing to uncover the impact the Loan Charge will have on those affected. This includes failing to estimate how many families are likely to experience breakdown and how many people are likely to go bankrupt as a result.
Steve Packham, Spokesperson for LCAG said:
“We have a situation where if the Government continues to ignore the reality of the Loan Charge, thousands of people will have no choice but to go bankrupt and lives will be ruined as a result. So far, Treasury Ministers have been determined to not listen, even to Parliamentary committees, and families are now taking the message direct to the Prime Minister, urging her to listen and act before it is too late.
“We are already dealing with desperate people. HMRC and the Treasury are well aware of the suicide risk from their flawed policy, yet are refusing to act and are instead misleading MPs to justify their decision-making. Despite knowing the harm the Loan Charge will cause, they carry on regardless and will be responsible for the consequences.
“Our message to the Prime Minister is that we urgently need a pause and a rethink. Ministers need to take the decent and obvious step and make the Loan Charge apply only going forward, not retrospectively. This is fair, avoids the risks of bankruptcy, homelessness and suicide and gives certainty to everyone involved”.
Dr Iain Campbell, Secretary General of IHPA added:
“The Independent Health Professionals Association fully supports the #STOPtheLoanCharge – Save Lives! protest and hopes that the Prime Minister will listen and act, which is the only responsible thing to do with the damage the Loan Charge is clearly going to inflict on many people’s health and wellbeing.
“There are doctors and nurses who will be badly hit by the Loan Charge and some who will be forced into bankruptcy. On top of that, as medical professionals, we are also deeply concerned about the effect of this unfair policy on all those facing it. It’s not just 20 years of retrospective taxation, it’s a preventable mental health timebomb which Ministers simply cannot responsibly ignore any longer; They must act now”.