GROWING numbers of callers to a helpline set up by the Loan Charge Action Group (LCAG) say they are feeling suicidal, according to research conducted by campaigners.
The new helpline is manned by volunteers who oppose the loan charge, a controversial Government policy which has left workers with modest incomes facing large, unexpected tax bills.
According to data collected by campaigners, 27 callers to the helpline referenced suicidal thoughts between June and August. LCAG has simultaneously started to track the number of interventions made by both its helpline team and the wellbeing team relating to suicide threats on Twitter. During July alone there were 72 of these threats, according to the group.
The Loan Charge Action Group has described the charge as “a shocking changing of the law that overrides established statutory protections for individuals”.
Critics say it undermines the rule of law by taking away a citizen’s right to challenge HMRC in court, over sums that have never been legally proven to be due.
All these claims have been rejected by the Treasury, which states that the charge is designed to tackle tax avoidance and ensure everyone pays their fair share.
The charge was introduced in response to the Treasury’s concerns about “disguised remuneration schemes” which involved individuals being paid through loans, usually via an offshore trust in a low or no tax jurisdiction, which they did not have to repay.
According to the Treasury, the loan charge means people paying themselves through loans will have to contribute their “fair share” to pay for public services.
The Treasury says it builds on more than 20 years of HMRC action to challenge these schemes.
LCAG spokesperson, Steve Packham, said: “Of the calls we received in the past fortnight, four were from individuals who had just discovered that they were impacted by the loan charge and needed help not only to understand their position and the options available to them, but also to get over the shock and dismay at being presented with a life changing unforeseen tax bill with limited time to pay.”
The organisation believes call rates and suicide interventions are accelerating with the deadline for loan charge settlements fast approaching,
Oliver-Hibbs Brockway, the CEO of Nodal, a freelancer hiring platform, said of the loan charge: “Workers innocently used schemes by companies who they believed were helping to manage their taxation, with no cautions from HMRC at the time.
“The crackdown will potentially affect more than 50,000 UK freelancers and the self employed for as much as hundreds of thousands of pounds.
He added: “It will also send the wrong message to workers up and down the country who are fairly contributing to taxes currently, as to when the government may suddenly alter the rules.”
Yorkshire-based members of the Loan Charge Action Group plan to meet next month to discuss the next stage of their campaign.
A spokesman said: “The campaign against the loan charge has huge momentum, with more and more MPs writing to (Prime Minister) Boris Johnson and (Chancellor) Sajid Javid. With the deadline of the end of September getting ever closer, people are worried but hopeful that the Prime Minister can be pushed to stick to his promise to review the loan charge.”
More than 200 MPs have called for a suspension and independent review of the policy, but, so far, Boris Johnson’s Government has been unmoved.
An HMRC spokesman said previously: “We have committed to giving people as long as they need to pay the loan charge as we completely understand that facing a large tax bill can be difficult and stressful.
“If people are worried about being able to pay the loan charge, they should get in touch with HMRC as soon as possible by calling the dedicated HMRC helpline on 03000 599110.”