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  • April Loan Charge – Not All Wounds are Visible

    10 October 2019

    Robert Wilson

    Tax can be Taxing – Stress, Suicide & April Loan Charge

    Working in tax, my colleagues and I know all too well about the disguised remuneration loan charge, indeed, we have been extremely active in championing a review of the loan charge itself, you can read my firm’s submission to the review here:

    As a separate note, having made the ‘switch’ across the Pennines from Leeds to Manchester a number of years ago, it’s always still great to check into the Yorkshire Post from time to time.

    I was doing just that earlier and found myself delving into this article; HMRC must establish mental health helpline to halt loan charge suicides, MPs are told

    What got me most about this article the reference to the open letter from the All-Party Parliamentary Loan Charge Group to Sir Amyas Morse, who is leading the Loan Charge Review, advising of yet another suicide (bringing the total number up to 7) which has been attributed to the financial fallout of the loan charge.

    In particular, the excerpt from said letter below: –

    “Part of your loan charge review must look into the catastrophic effect that the loan charge has and is having on many individuals, leading to many documented cases of stress, depression and nervous breakdown. It also must look into why this was not predicted in the original impact assessment, which was clearly not only flawed, but also negligent.”

    I’ve deliberately emboldened the points above. Rather than get into a huge opinion on this, I thought I would just outline some talking points: –

    1. Why had the Government not put in place more rigorous safeguarding procedures to protect vulnerable people prior to commencing a wide sweeping collection activity?

    Whilst of course pursuing a legally owed debt in any context is perfectly legitimate, by the very nature of the loan charge mechanics, it would have been plainly obvious from the outset that the receiving of a demand from HMRC for many users of disguised remuneration schemes would have been a complete shock. We quite often find ourselves assisting clients whom were wholly unaware that their employer was using such a scheme and indeed in many cases any ‘pay’ that they received was always calculated on a net basis

    1. When it comes to suicide or any death caused by another’s actions, it does not matter whether that number is 1 or 7 or 70, it is still a tragedy. As the RtHon Jacob Rees-Mogg said “Any Government policy that is linked to suicide rests on the Governments conscience”. Why then has it taken so long for the Government to look to address the issue and is it a matter of ‘too little too late’? Regrettably, not every suicide can be prevented even if the most compassionate actions are taken, but could more effort have gone into this sooner?
    1. From a wider society perspective, are any policies employed, either at a private or a public level, with full consideration of persons mental health taken into account? Its obviously easier to identify and put in place safeguarding measures to prevent physical injury (how many times have we been told that we must bend our knees when we pick up a heavy box?) but mental health is, quite often, silent until the point it is too late.

    Much of this though does still stem from the stigmatism associated with mental health. Remember, its good to talk.