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2019 Loan Charge

Volume 653: debated on Tuesday 29 January 2019

The loan charge is not retrospective. The schemes that were entered into and to which the loan charge relates have always been defective—they never worked, including at the time when they were entered into. That has been evidenced by a number of court cases, including one put before the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is allowed to go back to 1999 to look at tax records. Records that it can look at include those in otherwise closed years. If that is not retrospective, I do not know what it is. What word would the Minister use to describe the loan charge to my constituent, who tells me that he started a business working in the oil and gas industry, living in Orkney but working across the globe, doing everything the Government would want him do? How does he now find himself facing bankruptcy, before his 29th birthday?

An important principle lies at the heart of the whole debate around the loan charge, which is that individuals should pay the tax that is due. If they enter into arrangements that basically mean they disguise income as a loan that they have no intention of ultimately repaying—money that is, more often than not, routed via low or no-tax jurisdictions overseas, via a trust, then brought back into the United Kingdom by way of payment—the Government believe that that is wrong, and the tax should be paid.

What assessment has the Chancellor made concerning an immediate suspension of the loan charge and all settlement discussions within an appropriate period, to allow the loan charge review to be properly conducted and any recommendations to alter the legislation to be implemented?

My hon. Friend will know that the loan charge was brought into effect in 2016. It allowed three years for individuals to clean up the loans—if they were loans, they could be refinanced on a proper, commercial basis—or to come to an arrangement with HMRC. The most important message that I can give from the Dispatch Box today to those involved in these schemes is to get out of avoidance, to get in touch with HMRC and to settle their affairs. They will have a sympathetic and proportionate hearing.