HMRC must establish mental health helpline to halt loan charge suicides, MPs are told

The Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg said: "Any Government policy that is linked to suicide rests on the Governments conscience, and I will certainly pass his suggestion on to Her Majestys Treasury."  Picture: PA
The Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg said: "Any Government policy that is linked to suicide rests on the Governments conscience, and I will certainly pass his suggestion on to Her Majestys Treasury." Picture: PA
0
Have your say

MPs have been told that HMRC must create a mental health helpline to prevent "any other unnecessary deaths" linked to a controversial Government policy.

Stephen Lloyd, the MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon, has become the latest Parliamentarian to condemn the loan charge, which is under a review following claims that it breaches the rule of law.

Mr Lloyd told the House of Commons: "I do not know whether the Leader of the House is aware of this, but a few days ago at Treasury questions a number of colleagues on both sides of the House pointed out to Ministers that there had been seven suicides by people affected by the loan user charge.

"I remind the right hon gentleman that in July 2018 I urged Treasury Ministers to install a mental health helpline at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. My urging was rejected then, but I urge him to go to his ministerial colleagues in the Treasury and get that mental health helpline put in at HMRC before there are any other unnecessary deaths."

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons replied: "The hon gentleman raises a point of the highest importance. Any Government policy that is linked to suicide rests on the Government’s conscience, and I will certainly pass his suggestion on to Her Majesty’s Treasury."

All-Party Parliamentary Loan Charge Group has also written to Sir Amyas Morse, who is leading the Loan Charge Review, stating that the group has been informed of another suicide of someone facing the charge.

The letter added: "This is the seventh suicide of someone facing the loan charge that has been reported to and confirmed to the Loan Charge APPG. As you know, when we met with you last week, we handed you, in confidence, the information regarding the previous six suicides that have been reported to us."

The APPG letter - which has been signed by Sir Ed Davey, the APPG’s chairman, and the vice-chairs Ruth Cadbury and Ross Thomson, says: "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.

"We realise that it is not in your remit to be able to direct HMRC to suspend activity related to the loan charge. However, we would suggest that you could use your role to call on HMRC to do this, to take the pressure off the people who are facing action over bills that have never been legally proven to be due and with who have no right of appeal."

A Treasury spokesperson said: “We’ve commissioned an independent review to consider the impact of the loan charge.

“Sir Amyas Morse is independent and has full control over the review. He will report back by mid-November, so we can give taxpayers certainty about what they need to do in advance of the January Self Assessment filing deadline.”

The loan 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 our public services. Workers from a wide range of professions have been hit with large tax bills, which in some cases date back to 1999.

An HMRC spokesperson said recently: "HMRC is committed to treating all those we serve with respect and consideration

"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.

"Our teams are trained to identify customers who are anxious, worried or need extra support and ensure they get the help they need."

"