MPs on Friday accused the boss of HM Revenue & Customs of “deliberately” evading questions over how many people facing a contentious tax dubbed the loan charge had taken their own lives.
The loan charge all-party parliamentary group said in a letter to Jonathan Thompson, HMRC chief executive, that the tax authority should declare “how many suicides of people facing the loan charge HMRC are aware of”.
The group sent a letter to Sir Jonathan on Monday after learning of allegations that an HMRC employee had claimed that the tax authority was aware of six individuals who had taken their own lives in connection with the loan charge.
From April, at least 50,000 contractors who used tax avoidance schemes that HMRC has called “disguised remuneration” will face the charge.
It will tax income received up to 20 years ago in a single financial year. Several people are facing six-figure tax bills which they say they cannot pay.
On Wednesday Sir Jonathan responded to the loan charge all-party parliamentary group’s letter of Monday.
He did not refer to the allegations that HMRC was aware of up to six suicides, but he expressed concern over “reports of anyone taking their own life that have been shared online and with the all-party parliamentary loan charge group”.
He said HMRC had approached a campaign group acting for contractors affected by the loan charge about the deaths, but had been unable to gain information.
Sir Jonathan added that “no information has been provided that has enabled us to identify an individual that we can link to both taking their own life and the loan charge”.
The loan charge all-party parliamentary group responded to Sir Jonathan on Friday, accusing him of deliberately evading the question posed in its letter of Monday.
“So can you, as a matter of urgency, respond to us and tell us how many suicides of people facing the loan charge HMRC are aware of?”, said the letter signed by Ed Davey, chair, and Ruth Cadbury and Ross Thomson, vice-chairs.
They added in the letter: “Either HMRC is aware of suicides linked to the loan charge and are hence giving the false impression that you do not know about them or you are not in control of your organisation and [are] unaware of a matter as serious as the reports of suicides of people being pursued by HMRC.”
The loan charge all-party parliamentary group also on Friday published a survey of nearly 1,800 individuals facing the tax which showed that 40 per cent of respondents had seriously considered suicide.
The survey also found that 45 per cent said they would be forced to declare bankruptcy voluntarily.
People affected by these issues can contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or www.samaritans.org.