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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:31 pm on 20th November 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader 3:31 pm, 20th November 2018

I appreciate being called in this debate, Mr Walker, and I thank Mr Baker for securing it.

In previous years, the SNP has raised concerns about the implementation of IR35 legislation, and during discussions on the Finance Bill I suggested a review into the way that it was being implemented. It was not necessarily that the legislation was a bad idea, but the way it was implemented did not work for people because they could not navigate the system appropriately. I raised that issue in 2016, just as my colleagues did previously.

I have been approached by many constituents about the loan charge. Some were recommended to join these schemes by the companies they worked for, which wanted them to move on and become contractors. One person told me that a presentation was given in the company’s boardroom by another company running one of the schemes. Individuals were encouraged to go to that presentation and transfer into one of the schemes rather than being employees of the company. That is a real concern.

I am concerned about the way that this measure is being implemented. I have a constituent who filled in his details before 30 September, as he was requested to do, but has not yet received a settlement figure from HMRC. Another constituent in the same boat has been told that they will receive a settlement figure by 5 April next year, although the Treasury promised that those figures would arrive by 30 November this year. People are being told that the settlement figures will not be calculated until 5 April, but they have also been told that they will need a payment plan in place by then in order to be compliant. If that settlement figure is not calculated until April and the payment plan will be required immediately, people do not have enough time to make the decisions they need to make on any settlement figure.

Clarity about timelines would be hugely appreciated. This has been a moveable feast, and the Treasury and HMRC have regularly changed the dates and times by which people have been required to submit information. It is important to have clarity so that people know when they need to have a payment plan in place.

It is important that people pay the tax they owe. At least one of my constituents is disputing the calculation made by HMRC. They have not been given a breakdown of the calculation and cannot work out why HMRC has come to that figure. There needs to be transparency so that people understand why HMRC thinks they owe what it says they owe, and they can then make rational and reasonable decisions about payment plans.

I have been clear with any constituent who has approached me, and with HMRC, that we need a mutually beneficial payment arrangement. We cannot have people being made bankrupt as a result of these payments. The change from 12 months to a five-year period for repayments is welcome, but if someone is being asked to pay back hundreds of thousands of pounds when they are existing on jobseeker’s allowance, it is not possible to pay that money back over five years.

I am also concerned about individuals who are being asked to sell or move out of their family home and have it repossessed. That causes problems for local councils as well as for the family involved, and just passes the buck. If HMRC wants to recoup the money, it would be sensible to do that in a way that means people can pay it, rather than having to be made bankrupt. We need give and take by HMRC, as well as transparency and clarity about dates.