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Loan Charge 2019: Sir Amyas Morse Review

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:58 pm on 19th March 2020.

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Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment) 2:58 pm, 19th March 2020

I am not only very concerned, but angry about some of these actions and what I have heard today about what HMRC is up to. I will speak more about that.

When constituents such as Fraser Kennedy and Jason Millington come to us to discuss this issue, three immediate things leap out at us. This has come up in the debate, including in a fantastic example from my hon. Friend Allan Dorans. In this Parliament, we really need to deal with the relationship between an employer and a worker and their status in the workplace, because it really is time to end the bogus self-employment that we have heard about in this debate and in other examples. This needs to be addressed because what this issue has proven is that the wrong people are being targeted.

Bob Stewart said that when people first come across this issue, it looks like some sort of tax avoidance scheme, and I think it is perfectly natural for someone to think that when it is first explained to them. In the back of my head, when I first heard about it, I thought, “Well, maybe I will approach HMRC as an MP and try to get the same sweetheart deal that Google got only a couple of years ago,” when it paid the equivalent of 4% corporation tax. It seems that there is a disproportionate way that the people who have been caught up in the loan charge are being dealt with compared with other people who can get a sweetheart deal. That is how I thought I could try to deal with it, because if the answer is, “Yes, it is tax avoidance”, then the people HMRC should really be going after are those who contrived and promoted such schemes, because they are the ones who are directly responsible. They should be pursued and punished, and there should not be the blunt instrument that is being used for those caught up in the loan charge.

The third conclusion is, as Richard Fuller said, that there have been disproportionate actions from HMRC towards the individuals who have been caught up in this and how they feel. My constituent, Fraser Kennedy, sums it up well. His employer, Winchester, assured him and HMRC that it had paid all the tax and moneys, but he is still getting chased by HMRC. He feels bullied and harassed, and is suffering from stress and anxiety because of how it has handled the matter. He believed that it was settled a year ago, but he is still getting correspondence.