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Carol Vorderman slams government over Loan Charge

Vorderman describes the Loan Charge as “utter moral corruption” on national radio

Carol Vorderman has accused the government of “utter moral corruption” over its uneven approach to tax justice, following reports in recent weeks and months that Nadhim Zahawi owes millions of pounds to HMRC.

Vorderman – the media personality best known for her long-running position on Countdown – made the comments on the Jeremy Vine show in late January.

She criticised “moral corruption” before going on to list a number of tax-related misdemeanours by government figures reported in the press over the last number of months.

The outburst was sparked by recent revelations that former Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, was under investigation by HMRC for shares in YouGov, a polling company, held by a financial trust which he claimed he has never benefited from.

Vorderman had opened with criticism of Akshata Murthy, the wife of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, for being “registered as a non-dom” taxpayer – that is, non-domiciled for tax purposes, or exempt from paying taxes on income from outside of the UK, despite being resident in the UK.

She also slammed Murthy for failing to pay the backdated taxes she owes for her time in the UK, which is estimated to be as high as £20m.


Loan Charge rumbles on

Vorderman’s criticism follows the news that a tenth suicide has been linked to the Loan Charge, which she said “no one talks about”.

The controversial tax policy was introduced in 2019 as a means to recover taxes from contractors who, in the vast majority of cases, had unknowingly been operating through tax avoidance schemes.

These tax schemes typically paid contractors through non-repayable loans, avoiding the necessary taxes. These sorts of schemes are referred to by HMRC as ‘disguised remuneration schemes’.

The Loan Charge treats all unpaid taxes as income in one year – leaving thousands of contractors with sizeable bills that they are unable to pay, with tragic consequences in some cases.

HMRC has also been heavily criticised for its focus on recovering taxes from scheme participants rather than scheme operators. This tactic leaves criminals free to continue designing tax avoidance schemes and the self-employed at further risk.

An All-Party Parliamentary Loan Charge and Taxpayer Group (APPG) has been established which lobbies the government on behalf of those affected. 

The APPG also wrote to the Prime Minister and his Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, in November last year calling the Loan Charge “a significant problem, as well as being a wholesale failure as a policy”.


Government mired in scandal

Vorderman also took aim at Nadhim Zahawi, who was subject to an HMRC investigation for unpaid taxes. Zahawi paid a penalty to HMRC prior to losing his job in the cabinet.

“Nadhim Zahawi – while Chancellor – has paid penalties to HMRC. We also know he has lied categorically in many statements to the press”, she said.

However, James Quarmby – Head of Private Wealth at Stephenson Harwood, a law firm – was also on the Vine show, and defended Zahawi.

“He’s paid a penalty for carelessness. Carelessness means you’ve made a mistake, not that you’ve done anything deliberately wrong”, he said, before going on to say that “millions of people get their tax returns wrong every year”.

Despite the sacking of Zahawi at the end of January, Sunak and his government continue to face criticism from the press and political opponents.

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