HMRC ‘referred itself to watchdog over loan charge deaths’

HM Revenue & Customs reported itself to the police watchdog in relation to the suicides of three individuals who received large tax bills relating to the controversial loan charge, it has been revealed.

The loan charge pertains to workers who, in the past, chose to receive their remuneration through non-taxable loans, rather than taxable salaries.

Although the loans were legal at the time, the complex structure of the arrangements meant that many were unlikely ever to be repaid. This led to HMRC treating the move as tax avoidance, with the government stating in its 2016 Budget that the practice was to cease and any unpaid tax was to be repaid.

HMRC is now pursuing that tax dating back to 1999, resulting in huge one-off loan charge bills for some workers.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General, Jesse Norman, confirmed in parliament yesterday that the government had been made aware of three suicides “that may have some connection with the loan charge”.

These cases had been reported to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which regulates the activities of both the police and the tax office, he said. Norman added that one case had been referred back to HMRC for review, while no further action was taken in relation to the other incidents.

While “any injury to individuals from any act of government or their agencies is to be deeply regretted,” Norman said, he noted that “there is also the question of collecting the several billion pounds of back tax that is due.”

The loan charge itself is currently subject to an independent review commissioned by Chancellor Sajid Javid, following concerns raised by MPs over the large scale of the bills being sent to some taxpayers. Led by Sir Amyas Morse, the review is set to conclude in mid-November.

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