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2019 Loan Charge — [Mr Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:03 pm on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Ross Thomson Ross Thomson Conservative, Aberdeen South 3:03 pm, 20th November 2018

I could not agree more. It seems to be easy pickings for HMRC. It is not going after those who are truly culpable. That is why such great distress is being expressed in our surgeries.

My constituent continued:

“This whole sorry affair has imposed life changing levels of stress on both me and my family, especially with the backdrop of the recent downturn in the oil and gas industry where I have been out of work for about 50% of the past two years.”

Another constituent wrote:

“This is a complicated situation, however fundamentally, HMRC have closed down the opportunity to use these ‘loan’
schemes.”

My constituent accepts that it is a positive move to end ambiguity.

“The retrospective nature of this legislation is going to place a large number of contractors under extreme financial duress. Bearing in mind HMRC’s failure to sort this situation out sooner”.

Another constituent—this is the last example I will give—emailed me to say that he was emailed by a company stating that he could retain 78% to 80% of his salary legally. He wrote:

“The scheme was QC approved and top tax counsel advised it was sound…
I learnt during the latter part of last week that my retrospective tax charge is very likely to exceed £230,000. As for HMRC’s so-called ‘Impact Assessment’
apparently finding that such sums would lead to few, if any issues for those being expected to pay such, I can only comment that they must assume that we are all multi-millionaires. Of course, they know full well that we aren’t.

It’s very daunting when the full weight of government makes demands with threats of the law being brought to bear when, according to the law, no law has been broken. I doubt very much that I can simply ignore threats, be taken to court and stand there and say such. Thus individuals are placed in the position of hiring lawyers with costs running into six-figures and this will be beyond the means of most, if not all of us.”

This particular constituent says that he is single and has

“never had a second income from a partner to assist with cost of living”.

He is facing serious financial distress.

It is right that we condemn those who sold on and encouraged such schemes. It is deeply unfair that we seek to do this retrospectively. It absolutely violates the core principles of the rule of law. I could not agree more with colleagues who have already expressed that frustration. I think that this particular measure is disgraceful. I will go further, I think it is dishonourable and should be stopped.