Government has confirmed an independent review into the controversial Loan Charge that has inflicted retrospective tax bills on thousands within the contract sector.
Commissioned by the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, Government claims the review “will consider whether the policy is an appropriate way of dealing with disguised remuneration loan schemes”. It will be led by Sir Amyas Morse, the former Comptroller and Auditor General and Chief Executive of the National Audit Office (NAO).
“I am pleased to see today’s announcement that an independent review will be undertaken into the loan charge,” comments Philip Manley, a tax advisor who has been helping Loan Charge Victims.
“It is somewhat symbolic of the whole nature of the Loan Charge that the HMRC press release to accompany this announcement was filled with incorrect and damaging propaganda regarding disguised remuneration. Nevertheless, I welcome this step forward in our ongoing path towards justice. For the review to be truly independent it must, of course, involve collecting evidence from all parties.”
Loan Charge review: job not yet done for MPs
The announcement of the review arrives a week after PM Boris Johnson’s Commons announcement, following months of mounting scrutiny, with the Loan Charge having been the subject of debate within Parliament and the focus of numerous protests.
Contractors will be hoping that the independent review will provide a more accurate depiction of the Loan Charge than that portrayed by the Treasury, whose report prompted accusations that it was “evading proper scrutiny and accountability” when published earlier this year.
“Finally we have the announcement about the long-awaited and much needed review of the Loan Charge,” comments Steve Packham, spokesperson for the Loan Charge Action Group.
“We are extremely grateful to all the MPs and peers who have pushed for this. They now need to ensure it is genuinely independent, with no interference from the Treasury or HMRC. The Loan Charge scandal must now be looked at properly and then appropriate action taken”.
Experts encourage caution over Loan Charge review
“We are delighted to see the Prime Minister sticking to his word and ordering an independent review into the Loan Charge,” adds ContractorCalculator CEO Dave Chaplin.
“We sincerely hope Sir Amyas Morse collates evidence from all parties and cuts through the considerable amount of misleading rhetoric that has been published, so that those responsible can be held to account for the damage done to the victims.”
However, Sir Amyas Morse has a tight timeframe within which to achieve this, with the Government announcement noting that the review is scheduled to conclude by mid-November. This, it notes, is intended to give taxpayers certainty ahead of the January self-assessment deadline. However, for leading tax barrister Keith Gordon of Temple Tax Chambers, the looming deadline poses problems:
“It is understandable why the review has been given such a short timetable, but this will leave many people wondering whether there is sufficient time to allow the review to be as thorough as it needs to be.
“I am also a little concerned that the review will be staffed by HMRC and HMT civil servants. Whilst this ensures that the cost is to be borne by the Exchequer, there’ll be a perceived conflict of interests given that HMRC and HMT are likely to come in for a lot of criticism.”