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Disguised Remuneration Schemes: HMRC Contractors

Volume 685: debated on Tuesday 1 December 2020

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are aware of 15 contractors who have used disguised remuneration schemes while engaged either by the department or by Revenue and Customs Digital Technology Services. In each of the cases, the contractors were engaged via an agency or a company providing this service. It is important to be clear that Revenue and Customs does not engage in or enter into disguised remuneration schemes. It is possible for a contractor providing services to HMRC to use a disguised scheme without the department’s knowledge or by participation through a third party.

I am amazed at the Minister’s answer—that firms can use methods of payment that HMRC then declares to be illegal and that no checks have been done by HMRC on those contractors. Does he not accept that it is unfair to put the burden on taxpayers who first of all entered into payments through disguised remuneration because we were forced to do so, and who declared that on tax returns which HMRC did not challenge, yet HMRC is now telling us that it did not even check that contractors it employed were paying in that way? How many of these contractors have HMRC actually pursued for forcing employees to use schemes that have been deemed illegal?

I think the right hon. Gentleman is slightly unclear on this. HMRC takes careful steps to ensure that the people whom it deals with as agencies employ on a proper and appropriate basis. When, in very rare cases among hundreds and hundreds of contractors in a fast-moving market, it may become clear that someone has in fact been hired under such a scheme, it takes immediate steps to end that relationship and then to follow up, of course, and to pursue as may be required under law. If he is concerned about the interests of taxpayers, may I remind him that many of the people who benefit from disguised remuneration have not been paying tax, from which our public services benefit, and it is those taxpayers whose interests we are also seeking to protect.