Loan Charge

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 11th April 2019.

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Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General 4:45 pm, 11th April 2019

My hon. Friend is entirely right. I will come on, in the limited time I have, to deal with both employers and promoters, as those are very important aspects too.

When it comes to retrospection the other important point is that, contrary to the suggestion many right hon. and hon. Members have made that this issue has just suddenly appeared and HMRC has just started to address these scheme, it has been taken through the courts over countless years. In 2004, Dawn Primarolo, who was referred to earlier in this debate, was instrumental in bringing in the DOTAS legislation upon which recent cases have been concluded in HMRC’s favour. There has been a concerted effort by HMRC over many, many years to clamp down on these particular arrangements.

Some of the other misinformation includes the idea that thousands upon thousands of taxpayers are about to be made bankrupt. HMRC very, very rarely has a situation where somebody is placed in bankruptcy. That is not right for the individual and it is not right for our tax collecting authority. In fact, my hon. Friend Sir Paul Beresford gave several examples last week of where he had accompanied his constituents and got involved with their tax affairs and their dealings with HMRC. In each case, as he was able to state, a fair and reasonable settlement was entered into. That is the main thrust of HMRC’s approach.

It has also been suggested that people will lose their home as a consequence of the loan charge. It could not be clearer: HMRC has publicly stated that nobody will lose their primary residence as a consequence of settling their loan charge liability. On the point my hon. Friend Colin Clark raised about employers and individuals, it has been assumed widely in this debate that the vast majority of those impacted by these measures are individuals. That is not the case. Of the 6,000 settlements to date and the £1 billion that has been brought in, 85% by value has come from employers, not employees. In the first instance, HMRC will go to the employer, not the employee.

The issue of promoters is extremely important and, quite rightly, a number of right hon. and hon. Members have raised it. I want to make it clear that HMRC is cracking down on the unscrupulous promoters who sell these schemes. In fact, it is currently investigating more than 100 promoters and others involved in the promotion of tax avoidance. That includes promoters of disguised remuneration schemes. In recent years, HMRC has also litigated a number of cases of failure to disclose under DOTAS, which came in in 2004—not recently—and several recent decisions in cases on disguised remuneration have been found in HMRC’s favour. HMRC has also made successful complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority in relation to DR schemes to stop promoters making misleading claims about the arrangements they are selling. Just two weeks ago, HMRC announced that it had won a legal case against a loan scheme avoidance promoter, Hyrax Resourcing, which will help HMRC to collect over £40 million in unpaid tax. For the reasons I have set out, it would not be right to delay these arrangements.

Let me turn now to two particularly important issues that many Members have raised, first on the affordability of payment arrangements. Let me be very clear: it is never the intention of HMRC to bankrupt anyone who comes forward in good faith to agree a manageable payment plan. I can confirm that HMRC is authorised to agree tailored repayment plans for those affected by the loan charge based on ability to pay. Where tax is payable under self-assessment, payment will of course not be due until January 2020. There is also no maximum repayment period, and plans of 10 years or more can be put in place where required. Further, I can announce today that HMRC is now forming a dedicated team focused solely on agreeing these manageable payment arrangements for those due to pay the tax they owe by way of the loan charge.