A lobby group looking after the interests of contractors and freelance workers is criticising HM Revenue & Customs for ignoring a plea to set up a 24-hour suicide helpline for desperate workers facing massive tax bills.
The Loan Charge Action Group (LCAG) claims that hundreds of depressed and suicidal taxpayers have contacted them asking for help as they face financial ruin for allegedly avoiding tax up to 20 years ago.
More than 20,000 contractors working as doctors, teachers, social workers, in IT and in the oil and gas industries face average tax bills of £50,000 each.
The LCAG says that around distressed 200 contractors have been in touch since the tax bills went out.
The 2019 Loan Charge is a retrospective tax which reclassified self-employed contract workers as employees, which made them liable for retrospective tax bills going back 20 years.
The LCAG appealed to HMRC to set up the helpline for taxpayers now facing financial ruin.
But HMRC took three weeks to answer a letter, said a spokesman.
“HMRC not only ignored the request for a 24-hour mental health helpline, but the response to the letter merely offered to assist to “help people put their tax affairs right”, something contractors have called a sick joke, considering that the unfair pursuit of people’s tax affairs has led to the severe distress they are experiencing,” said an LCAG spokesman.
“Worse still, the letter goes on to say that those facing the devastating impact of the Loan Charge can only access any advice between 8:30am and 4pm, Monday to Friday. So people reporting suicidal thoughts because of receiving demands from HMRC can only do so during office hours.”
The LCAG argues HMRC should take better care of taxpayers who are distressed because of tax demands.
“HMRC’s vulnerable customer policy is not sufficient nor will it prevent mental breakdown or suicides,” write Steve Packham and Andrew Earnshaw, LCAG’s executive directors.
“Tax advisers tell us that they receive several calls every day from clients who have only just been made aware of the charge and its implications, some have lost count of how many have decided suicide is the only way out.”