The All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Loan Charge has written an urgent open letter to the Prime Minister having been informed of yet another suicide of someone facing the controversial Loan Charge. The letter implores the Prime Minister, Theresa May, to intervene to delay the introduction of the Loan Charge and suspend settlements now that she is aware of the serious mental health risk and of the suicides that have already tragically occurred.
The Loan Charge APPG received an email from a professional adviser who has been supporting the family of the man facing the Loan Charge who killed himself. They were clear that the pressure from HMRC as a result of the Loan Charge was the reason he took his own life. This follows on from another person facing the Loan Charge who had taken his own life, whose family gave testimony in person to the APPG Loan Charge Inquiry at an oral evidence session on Wednesday 27th February. The family told how their family member felt “criminalised” due to the Loan Charge, despite never having done anything illegal.
This testimony was referred to by Vice-Chairs of the Loan Charge APPG in the House of Commons. It was first mentioned in the House on Monday 4th March by Ruth Cadbury MP (Labour, Brentford and Isleworth) in a question to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride MP. The Minister, extraordinarily, did not acknowledge or even empathise on hearing this tragic account.
On Wednesday 6th March at PMQs, Ross Thomson MP (Conservative, Aberdeen South) also mentioned the family’s harrowing testimony whilst sharing the APPG’s feeling that the Treasury are acting in “bad faith” over the Loan Charge and that the Prime Minister must now personally intervene and delay this pernicious legislation before thousands of lives are damaged.
The APPG have taken the step of writing to the Prime Minister, as the Treasury Ministers are refusing to listen. Despite the confirmed suicides they continue to repeat misleading statements, seeking to justify the policy and the numerous HMRC failures that preceded it. HMRC were asked on the floor of the House of Commons in July 2018 to set up a 24-hour helpline for those with acute anxiety and facing suicidal reports. HMRC’s response was simply that people should call them to “settle their tax affairs”, the very thing that has led people to despair.
In January the Government was forced to accept a cross-party amendment tabled by Loan Charge APPG Chair, Sir Ed Davey MP. MPs and peers were led to understand that this would entail a review of the Loan Charge. The Loan Charge APPG have now been told, in writing and in a face-to-face meeting, that there is no such review and that the Treasury will merely publish a report which will be largely written by HMRC. They have already ruled out any changes to the controversial Loan Charge despite the risk to the mental health and wellbeing of thousands of people.
The Loan Charge is a retrospective charge that comes in on the 5th April 2019 and overrides existing statutory protections. It allows HMRC to go back and demand tax for arrangements that were legal. This includes ‘closed’ tax years, for which HMRC failed to raise any concerns at the time and missed the statutory time limits in which to challenge tax returns. The Loan Charge was passed into law in 2017 with scant parliamentary scrutiny, a flawed impact assessment and with the Treasury ignoring the many submissions expressing grave concern about the measure.
Sir Ed Davey MP, Chair of the Loan Charge APPG (Liberal Democrat) said:
“The All-Party Parliamentary Loan Charge Group has written to the Prime Minister, Theresa May, to inform her of the tragic news of another suicide of someone facing the Loan Charge and we implore her now to intervene to delay the Loan Charge and suspend settlements.
“There must now be a delay before more lives are lost. There must then be a proper independent review into this dangerous piece of legislation and the damage it has done and will do to many people if it goes ahead and is not amended.”
Ruth Cadbury MP, Vice-Chair of the Loan Charge APPG (Labour) said:
“The evidence we heard at the Loan Charge Inquiry evidence session in person and in writing clearly shows that there is a serious risk to people facing the Loan Charge, with utterly impossible and unreasonable demands from HMRC and people having to sell homes and go bankrupt.
“The way Treasury Ministers have refused to acknowledge the fact that people have killed themselves facing the Loan Charge is shameful. Now that the Prime Minister herself is aware of these tragic and preventable deaths, she has a moral duty to step in and delay the Loan Charge. Failing to do so would be monumentally reckless in the knowledge that other lives and families are at risk.”
Ross Thomson MP, Vice-Chair of the Loan Charge APPG (Conservative) said:
“I know from my own constituency, and the many oil and gas workers caught up by the Loan Charge, the disastrous effect the Loan Charge is having on the mental health of those facing it, many of whom face ruin, bankruptcy and breakdown.
“I urge the Prime Minister, now she knows the tragic reality of what this policy is doing, to announce an immediate delay to the Loan Charge and the settlement process. The Loan Charge is going to be a disaster for many families and something that will cause a mental health crisis for many if the Government if doesn’t now listen and act.“
The letter can be viewed here.
Notes to Editors
- The PMQ and reply are here:
Ross Thompson MP: Last week, MPs heard a harrowing testimony from family members of a man who tragically committed suicide because he faced the Loan Charge, a 20 year retrospective tax facing thousands of families in my constituency and across the UK. Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister said on 9th January, “the Government accepted the review into the Loan Charge”, yet the Loan Charge APPG was only advised this week by the Treasury that there is no such review. Mr Speaker, the Treasury have acted in bad faith so will my Right Honourable Friend now personally intervene to ensure a genuine review and an urgent delay into the Loan Charge so that this review, as promised, can be carried out.
Prime Minister: Can I thank my Honourable Friend for his question and obviously he has raised the issue which is of concern to not only his constituency but others across the house. I will ensure that he receive a response from Treasury that sets out exactly what is being done in the review that is being taking place.
- The All-Party Parliamentary Loan Charge Group (Loan Charge APPG) has been created to bring together parliamentarians of all parties from both Houses of Parliament who have concerns about the nature and impact of the ‘2019 Loan Charge’ which will come into force on the 5th of April 2019 and also concerns about the wider context of fairness of tax legislation and HMRC’s conduct in enforcing it. See loanchargeappg.co.uk and Twitter @LoanChargeAPPG. The Loan Charge APPG is an officially registered Parliamentary Group, as described on the UK Parliament website www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-lords/members/apg/.
The Officers of the Loan Charge APPG are as follows:
- Rt Hon. Sir Ed Davey MP, Chair, MP for Kingston and Surbiton (Liberal Democrat)
- Ruth Cadbury MP, Vice-Chair, MP for Brentford and Isleworth (Labour)
- Ross Thomson MP, Vice Chair, MP for Aberdeen South, (Conservative)
- Hon. Baroness Kramer, Vice-Chair, (Liberal Democrat)
- Liz Twist MP, Vice-Chair, MP for Blaydon (Labour)
- The All-Party Parliamentary Loan Charge Group are currently undertaking a Loan Charge Inquiry about the nature and impact of the ‘2019 Loan Charge’. The full public report will be published in mid March.