LCAG  Press Release 12 September 2018

 

HMRC apathy forces campaign group to set up emotional support service to help prevent suicides

 

The Loan Charge Action Group (LCAG) has been forced to set up a dedicated telephone emotional support service to deal with people experiencing suicidal thoughts as a result of the Treasury’s Loan Charge, which comes into effect in April 2019.

 

LCAG and a supportive MP have consistently asked that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Treasury set up such a helpline, but this request has been repeatedly ignored despite them being made aware of the suicide risk posed by their policy.

 

Anyone concerned about the emotional impact the Loan Charge is having on them can speak to a counsellor from LCAG by texting, ‘LCAG HELP’ to 81025. Someone will reply promptly during the daytime and for people texting at night someone will call the following day.

 

Thousands of freelance workers, consultants and contractors across all industries face bankruptcy, anxiety and stress due to the draconian Loan Charge. This new law contradicts legal convention and enables HMRC to go back twenty years, resulting in the demand for huge tax bills for arrangements that were legal when entered into and indeed are still legal today. LCAG and specialist tax advisors have been fielding calls from desperate people who are facing bills running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

 

HMRC themselves have received calls from victims expressing suicidal thoughts and intentions, yet have refused to either establish a hotline or deal with this in a professional and responsible manner. This shameful behaviour has been criticised by both MPs and the Independent Health Professionals Association.

 

LCAG has itself conducted an analysis of its own members and this alarmingly revealed the Loan Charge to be having a devastating impact on the welfare of individuals and their families. A staggering 68% of those canvassed are suffering from depression and anxiety, and a deeply worrying 25% – a quarter of all affected – are reporting suicidal thoughts and a risk of self-harm.

 

Despite knowledge of the suicide risk posed to Loan Charge victims, together with the refusal of the Government and HMRC to assist, there is widespread astonishment that MPs have recently been provided with a taxpayer funded 24-hour hotline to help with their own personal problems.

 

In the House of Commons on July 3rd 2018, Stephen Lloyd (Liberal Democrat MP for Eastbourne) called on the minister responsible for this policy, Mel Stride MP, to set up a helpline for people affected by the Loan Charge who were suffering from mental health issues. Mr Lloyd made the request on the floor of the House of Commons at Treasury Questions and expressed his serious concern about the mental health and wellbeing of many facing unpayable bills and bankruptcy as a result of the Loan Charge, a situation described by Mr Lloyd as being “caught in a trap”. A second MP, Peter Aldous (Conservative MP for Waveney), also said in the House of Commons that, “the retrospective nature of the 2019 Loan Charge could bankrupt thousands of people” and called upon Treasury Ministers to revise legislation to prevent this.

 

In both instances Mr Stride ignored the question completely.

 

Previously LCAG had written to HMRC Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary Jon Thompson, outlining the risk of suicides and urging that he set up a 24-hour helpline https://www.hmrcloancharge.info/blog/lcag-letter-to-jon-thompson. The reply from HMRC came from the Director of Counter Avoidance, Julie Elsey, who ignored the call for a helpline and instead offered to assist to, “help people put their tax affairs right”. Ms Elsey’s letter then stated that those facing the devastating impact of the Loan Charge would only be able to access any advice between 8:30am and 4pm, Monday to Friday. https://www.hmrcloancharge.info/news/hmrc_please_be_suicidal_during_office_hours/

 

LCAG have now taken the unprecedented step of setting up their own emotional support service in order to give desperate Loan Charge victims somewhere to turn to for help.

 

Richard Horsley, Spokesperson for the Loan Charge Action Group said,

 

“It is shocking that the Government and HMRC have so far refused to face up to the impact the Loan Charge is having on people, some of whom are reporting suicidal thoughts. They are well aware of this, indeed HMRC have taken calls themselves, yet they are currently just sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending this isn’t happening.

 

As more people realise they are affected by the Loan Charge, we are getting more and more calls and messages from desperate people facing life ruining bills and there is a real risk of self-harm and suicide as a result. We have set up an SMS and call back service so that people have somewhere to turn to.

 

For all those facing distress as a result of the Loan Charge, who would like to speak to a counsellor from LCAG, they can contact us by texting ‘LCAG HELP’ to 81025. We also recommend people facing thoughts of suicide and self-harm contact their local crisis teams, the Samaritans and NHS24.”

 

Dr Iain Campbell of the Independent Health Professionals Association added:

 

“HMRC has a duty of care towards such people and it is outrageous that it is not providing a service of professionally trained counsellors. They should take their responsibility seriously and accept that there are people facing severe distress and anxiety because of the Loan Charge and IR35 reforms.

 

I welcome this move by LCAG to provide these vulnerable people with emotional support. I am glad to see someone is taking this issue seriously and stepping into the void left by HMRC’s dereliction of its duty of care towards these people. This represents a useful channel for peer to peer support of those affected. Those in need of urgent support should remember they can also contact their GP (during working hours), the local community mental health crisis teams, or the Samaritans at any time of day.”

 

Notes to Editors

Media Contact: Mark Sebright – marks@imagenuk.com / 07504 042613

 

  1. 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 to 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.

 

  1. About the Loan Charge: HM Govt has nasty surprise in store for anyone mis-sold an Employment Arrangement that involved remuneration in the form of ‘loans’ next April, in the form of the 2019 Loan Charge. Everyone who has ever been employed through such a structure will be hit with a retrospective charge in the 2018-19 tax year.

 

  1. Questions asked about the Loan Charge in Treasury questions on 3rd July 2018 are as follows:
  • Stephen Lloyd MP (Liberal Democrat, Eastbourne): “Recent media reports have identified the severe impact of this huge retrospective charge on the mental health of some of the contractors, Mr Speaker, I’ve real concerns about their wellbeing. Will the Minister commit to setting up a 24-hour helpline to provide support for individuals caught in this trap?”
  • Peter Aldous MP (Conservative, Waveney): “The retrospective nature of the 2019 Loan Charge could bankrupt thousands of people. Will the Government revise legislation to ensure this does not happen with the Loan Charge only applying to disguised remuneration loans made after the 2017 Finance Act?”.

 

  1. Stephen Lloyd MP’s Early Day Motion, signed by 85 MPs, 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”.

 

For full register of MPs supporting Parliamentary motion: https://www.parliament.uk/edm/2017-19/1239