Why Parliament must examine the loan charge review in detail - Greg Wright

The Treasury's decision to announce changes to the loan charge and the independent review's conclusion that it caused 'serious distress' is a vindication of everyone who believes this controversial policy was flawed.

Parliament must be allowed to debate Sir Amyas Morse's report on the loan charge in detail, says Greg Wright Picture: PA

When I spoke to Sir Amyas Morse, he told me he had been deeply moved by the evidence submitted by people whose loved ones had committed suicide while facing the loan charge.

His report acknowledges their anguish and calls for change: "The foundation of our tax system is fairness and where this is undermined through avoidance schemes it is right that these are tackled. However, in doing so, the government and HMRC must act proportionately and responsibly.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

“As my review makes clear, the design and delivery of the Loan Charge didn’t get the balance right between tackling tax avoidance and protecting the rights of taxpayers and, in some cases, has caused serious distress to the individuals affected.

“I’m pleased to see Government commit to act on the recommendations of my Review, bringing the Loan Charge back into line with the wider tax system, better protecting those who are least able to repay and providing certainty for all those affected."

Sir Amyas told me that he wanted a "much higher level of accountability" as to how HMRC's powers are used.

He uncovered an inconvenient truth - that HMRC's powers have developed faster than its administration system could keep up.

Sir Amyas said: "I'm disturbed by the fact that so many people are taking out loan schemes."

He also believes a new strategy is needed to examine intermediaries, whose role in the loan charge saga deserves close attention.

He said: "It's outrageous people are giving advice to individuals who don't have a sophisticated understanding."

Steve Packham, Spokesperson for the Loan Charge Action Group said: “We welcome that it’s now been accepted that it is wholly unacceptable for this retrospective law to apply as far back as 1999, which was disgraceful, and that closed years prior to 2016 will no longer be subject to the Loan Charge. These are things that clearly undermined the rule of law.

"However we continue to believe that the Loan Charge should not apply retrospectively at all and are concerned that many people will still be seriously impacted.

“This is a big step forward, with a clear commitment that this dreadful law will be changed, a law that has already tragically cost lives. The Loan Charge Action Group will continue to campaign for all those facing the Loan Charge and we will be working with supportive MPs to push for fairness for all those facing the Loan Charge."

This complex and detailed report must now be studied by Parliament to ensure this tragic story is never repeated.