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Loan Charge: Impact on Mental Health

Volume 727: debated on Tuesday 7 February 2023

7. If he will make an assessment of the potential impact of the loan charge on the mental health of people affected by the charge. (903521)

The loan charge was independently reviewed in 2019 by Lord Morse, who considered its impact on individuals affected. The Government recognise the impact and have accepted 19 of the review’s 20 recommendations. His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs puts support for those affected at the core of its work in collecting the loan charge; that includes support from trained advisers in its extra support teams.

HMRC has acknowledged that there have now been 10 suicides connected to the loan charge. Can the Minister confirm whether loan schemes like those that the charge was set up to stop are still in operation? What are the Government doing to stop further such tragedies?

On the point about the deaths that the hon. Lady understandably raises, we have made referrals to the Independent Office for Police Conduct in relation to those 10 events. The first referral was in March 2019. In the eight concluded investigations, no evidence has been found of misconduct by any HMRC officer, but we are very sensitive to the pressures that people are under, which is precisely why we have the extra support teams in place: teams of trained advisers who can, where appropriate, support taxpayers towards voluntary and community organisations that can help. Of course, people can also ask for help such as time to pay.

Whatever the hopes were on the loan charge scheme’s introduction, the process has now gone on for a considerable time, raising questions about its efficacy and drawing HMRC into areas of moral hazard. Will my hon. Friend look at ways in which this HMRC scheme can be drawn to a conclusion?

May I acknowledge my hon. Friend’s work as Economic Secretary and thank him for it? The difficulty is that a large sum of money is still outstanding from these disputes. We have had an independent review of the matter, through which we have been able to reduce the number of people affected, but the issue of outstanding tax remains. I encourage anyone affected by these historic issues to please talk to HMRC so that we can find a resolution for both sides.