LCAG Press Release – Contractors group demand HMRC set up a suicide helpline
● Thousands of freelance workers face bankruptcy, anxiety and stress caused by the actions of HM Government and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and HM Treasury.
● Campaigners call on HMRC to set up support helpline to avoid looming mental health crisis and identified suicide risk
● Doctors group backs calls saying it is extraordinary that workers are at risk of suicide due to HMRC behaviour and Government policy
A group representing contractors and freelance workers in the UK have taken the unprecedented step of calling on HMRC to set up a 24-hour Suicide Hotline to deal with ever increasing volumes of calls from people reporting suicidal thoughts as a result of the 2019 Loan Charge.
These include nurses, doctors, teachers, social workers, IT and oil & gas contractors who have been mis-sold employment arrangements by employers and agencies, and now face retrospective tax bills running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Volunteer support organisation, the Loan Charge Action Group (LCAG), is being inundated with calls and messages from distressed freelance contractors that it is not resourced to handle and therefore has written to HMRC Chief Executive and Director General, Jon Thompson, calling on HMRC to take responsibility for the devastating effect this ill-considered policy is having and take immediate action.
The letter demands that he ‘establish, as a matter of urgency, a 24 hour helpline that individuals may call when in severe mental distress and/or having suicidal thoughts, with the suicide risk being a direct result of your relentless pursuit of individuals, including our members.’
LCAG has collated almost 200 impact statements from distressed contractors such as this message received earlier this week:
I used this scheme for 3 years and HMRC is asking me for £103,000. I earn £30,000, my wife cannot work, I have three children and cannot see how we can manage. We have contacted social service because we know we won’t be able to afford taking care of them. Living a nightmare where life is very empty. Depression and fear every hour, every minute. Tired …
The 2019 Loan Charge is a retrospective tax introduced by HM Government in the 2017 Budget which reclassified UK contract workers under IR35 tax legislation, and consequently liable for retrospective tax bills as full-time employees going back up to 20 years, despite never having received the benefits of full time employment such as holiday and sick pay. The Charge potentially affects tens of thousands of contractors, freelancers and agency workers including social workers, supply teachers, bank and locum nurses and doctors who were recommended to become self-employed under umbrella companies by employers, professional advisors and employment agencies, and now face personal bankruptcy as a result.
The schemes, which were perfectly legal at the time and meant to facilitate flexible short-term working contractors, also enabled private and public sector employers, notably including the NHS, to avoid billions of pounds in VAT and NIC contributions, which HMRC is now seeking to recover from ordinary hard-working people.
Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd has posted an early day motion signed by some 61 cross-party MPs already including Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, former Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, and senior Labour MP Jon Cruddas, calling for the Government to change the legislation so that Loan Charge applies from 2017, not retrospectively back as far as 1999 which is what is causing the mental health crisis for so many people https://www.parliament.uk/edm/2017-19/1239.
LCAG spokesperson, Richard Horsley, commented:
We are deeply concerned about the effect this invidious and ill-considered policy is having on people’s mental health and on their daily lives. It is currently falling to us, as an action and victim support group, to deal with the devastating personal impact and potentially disastrous consequences.
Whilst our role is to challenge the unfair basis of the Loan Charge and to seek to work with HMRC, HM Treasury and others to reconsider the policy, and support those affected, we are not professionally trained to deal with people at risk of, or threatening suicide. Nor should we have to do so, when the Loan Charge is something the Government are forcing upon us, and HMRC is implementing regardless of its legitimacy, or the mounting evidence of the severity of the consequences of doing so.
These victims never set out to avoid tax. They were simply following professional advice, often as a requirement of their contact employment. HMRC must accept responsibility for their implementing this policy and the consequences of doing so. The ‘vulnerable customer policy’ is not sufficient nor will it prevent mental breakdown or suicides, so they must set up a hotline and deal with the consequences of this policy and their unfair pursuit of people who are at risk.
Dr Iain Campbell of the Independent Health Practitioners Association (IHPA), some of whose members are being forced into National Insurance and VAT avoidance umbrellas including doctors and nurses, said:
As a medical practitioner, I must voice my disbelief that HMRC could preside over such an aggressive policy, which is adversely affecting so many people’s mental health, with some even pushed to the brink of suicide, and others suffering panic attacks and extreme stress, without even subjecting the policy to a proper analysis of its impact. This is a serious failure of the state’s Duty of Care towards these patients and not an act worthy of a developed country.
An urgent enquiry is needed. I would urge anyone affected please to make contact with their GP to access appropriate help and support.
Notes to Editors
1. The LCAG letter to Jon Thompson is attached.
2. The About the Loan Charge Action Group: The Loan Charge Action Group has been formed to raise awareness of the Retrospective tax charge introduced by HMG in the 2017 Budget and build a community where affected individuals can find information and support. The Group does not provide any form of chargeable service or professional advice. Visit www.hmrcloancharge.info
3. About the Loan Charge: HM Govt has nasty surprise in store for anyone miss-sold an Employment Arrangement involving remuneration through ‘loans’ next April in the form of the 2019 Loan Charge. Everyone who has ever been employed through such as structure will be hit with a retrospective charge in the 2018-19 tax year.
4. Early Day Motion 1239 states:
This House recognises that the Charge will affect contractors, freelancers and agency workers, including social workers, supply teachers and bank and locum nurses and doctors; notes that employment was not an option and in some cases the company or organisation insisted on those arrangements, including to avoid paying National Insurance… believes it is unfair that HMRC are pursuing people who acted in good faith rather than the client organisations, agencies or umbrella companies all of whom benefited significantly; notes that HMRC are aggressively pursuing individuals…. with no independent right of appeal; further believes that the Charge is likely to cause financial distress and bankruptcies, and believes that retrospectively taxing something that was technically allowed at the time, is unfair.