No, I am afraid not.
That is why we find not city slickers, bankers or finance specialists, but nurses, doctors, locums and careworkers caught up in this. All those people will never have the resources to pay back this money. It does not matter whether it is over two, five, seven or 10 years, they will just never have it.
Many witnesses said they had declared the schemes to HMRC. This really is the criminal aspect of this: someone declares a scheme, and then 20 years later or 10 years later, HMRC comes back and says, “Sorry, we haven’t closed your year, and you can pay now”. They are being asked to pay not a small amount, but £20,000 or £30,000 in the case of some my constituents.
What the Committee found is very important because, again, where does the blame lie? I think part of the blame lies with HMRC, but part of the blame lies with the employers. Many people have said that that is where HMRC should focus its effort, but the House of Lords Committee found
“little evidence of action taken against those who promote disguised remuneration schemes.”
It went on to say that
“HMRC appears to be prioritising recovery of tax revenue over justice”.
That point is central to today.
The Committee noted that the people involved were unusual subjects of this sort of recovery, because of the nature of their employment and so on. It said that of course these disguised remuneration schemes are “unacceptable tax avoidance”, but it also said:
“The loan charge is, however, retrospective in its effect.”
This House was formed in order to challenge the King, in his day, on the justice of the taxes he was demanding, and to put their own concerns back to the King to get them corrected before we paid the taxes. We should not forget the fundamental reason for this House’s existence, which is to look after our constituents in the face of demands from the state.
The Committee made a recommendation that HMRC should in future make clear public statements when it is looking at avoidance schemes. Because of the fact that so much of the burden of the decision falls on HMRC, it should make it clear to the public at large and anybody in those schemes when it is investigating them.