The All-Party Parliamentary Loan Charge Group has criticised the Treasury and HMRC for refusing to appear before the Group’s Inquiry into the Loan Charge, which is currently underway. Both the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride MP, and HMRC officials were invited to attend the third and final oral evidence session. A letter from Ruth Stanier, HMRC’s Director General of Customer Strategy and Tax Design, stated that neither an HMRC representative nor the Minister would be attending.
Oddly, Mr Stride failed to respond personally as the responsible Minister to the letter sent to him. Nor did he instruct his own civil servants to do so but instead had an HMRC official respond on his behalf.
The Loan Charge APPG Inquiry, a formal Select Committee-style inquiry, has already held two oral evidence sessions: one with tax advisers, accountants and a tax barrister; and another with people facing the Loan Charge. The third and final oral evidence session was to have been with HMRC officials and the responsible Minister, Mel Stride: many questions for them remain outstanding about the reality of the Loan Charge and the situation of many people who are impacted.
The Inquiry has already had over 500 submissions as well as the two oral evidence sessions. The APPG report is expected to be completed and published in mid-March.
The second oral evidence session heard from people facing the Loan Charge and the very damaging impact it is having on those who are facing it or being forced to settle. Several of those appearing reported intense anxiety and a fear of losing their homes and careers; one witness felt they had no choice but to emigrate to avoid bankruptcy and another broke down whilst giving evidence describing how their home was at risk.
Most harrowingly of all, family members of a person who tragically committed suicide whilst facing the Loan Charge came to tell the Inquiry of the shame the deceased person had felt because of the insidious legislation. HMRC’s pursuit of their family member was relentless. They urged the Government to listen, considering that many other people facing the Loan Charge are known to be at risk.
After accepting an amendment to the Finance Bill, the Government is expected to conduct their own review of the Loan Charge and must report to the House of Commons by 30th March 2019. There is, however, real apprehension about whether this review is actually taking place. There are fears that it will simply be a whitewash to avoid genuine scrutiny of the Loan Charge and HMRC’s actions.
There are increasing concerns amongst Parliamentarians about the accuracy of statements made by both HMRC officials and also by the Minister. The APPG has already criticised both parties for making misleading statements about the reality of court cases and also about prosecutions related to the Loan Charge. Their refusal to appear at the Loan Charge Inquiry indicates that they continue to avoid answering questions about these misleading statements. It also adds to the sense that both HMRC and the Treasury are refuting proper scrutiny of the Loan Charge.
The Minister, Mel Stride, has also declined to appear before the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee. The Committee published a damning report on HMRC’s behaviour and of the Loan Charge. Their report specifically criticised Mr Stride for his refusal to appear on three separate occasions before the Committee.
Sir Ed Davey MP, Chair of the Loan Charge APPG (Liberal Democrat) said:
“It is very disappointing that both the Treasury and HMRC have refused to appear before the Loan Charge Inquiry. The more we get to the truth about the Loan Charge and the devastating impact it will have on thousands of families up and down the country, the more important it is that Ministers and HMRC answer the many questions that so far they have refused to address.
We will continue to push for answers and for an immediate delay to its introduction, to allow for a genuine review into the Loan Charge and the effect it will have on many people, as well as the fairness of the policy”.
Ruth Cadbury MP, Vice-Chair of the Loan Charge APPG (Labour) said:
“The failure of the Treasury and HMRC to turn up and answer questions as part of our Loan Charge Inquiry is part of a clear pattern of avoiding proper scrutiny of the Loan Charge. Mel Stride was rightly criticised by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee for refusing to appear before then, so whilst their latest no-show is disappointing, it is all too typical of the way this matter has been dealt with.”
Ross Thomson MP, Vice-Chair of the Loan Charge APPG (Conservative) said:
“Last week the Inquiry heard very troubling evidence from people facing the Loan Charge, of the likelihood of many families facing bankruptcy and selling their homes and tragically of one harrowing case of someone facing the Loan Charge who took their own life. With the very serious concerns about what could happen when the Loan Charge comes in, we urge the Treasury to do the right thing and announce a delay and then we need a proper independent review”.
Notes to Editors
1. 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 in to 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 www.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/.
2. 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)
• Rt. Hon. Baroness Kramer, Vice-Chair , (Liberal Democrat)
• Liz Twist MP, Vice-Chair, MP for Blaydon (Labour)