MPs accuse Treasury, HMRC of ‘inappropriate interference’ in Loan Charge probe after ‘beer row’ promise revealed
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MPs accused the Treasury and HMRC of “clear and inappropriate interference” in an independent review of the controversial loan fee system.
It comes after the all-party parliamentary group Loan Charge claimed that new documents show an “inappropriately intimate relationship” between government officials and staff working on the independent Morse review in the controversial tax regime.
The charge, which sought to retrospectively recover funds from entrepreneurs and freelancers who used disguised pay systems, was linked to seven suicides and left up to 50,000 people facing significant tax burdens.
The review – led by former public expenditure oversight chief Sir Amyas Morse – attacked ministers for failing to strike the right balance between “fighting tax evasion and protecting taxpayer rights” .
But he concluded that the law was “clear” on the use of pay systems from 2010.
All-party group MPs say new FOI documents weaken the review’s findings, saying the disclosure proves its findings were “unfounded.”
In a new report, the group published exchanges between a member of the review team and the Chancellor’s press secretary in which they discussed the handling of press inquiries regarding the investigation.
Accepting the offer to help the review team, the senior Treasury official added, “Cool. Yes, we can help you. You owe us beers.”
The review staff responded, “Great, really appreciated. And happy to queue for beers.”
And the group alleged that the Treasury and HMRC had “privileged and early access” to the report’s findings while other interested parties were not given the same opportunity.
MPs said the conversations proved the exam failed “basic tests” for independence.
Lib Dem MP Ed Davey, group co-chair, said: “There has been a clear attempt by HMRC and Treasury to step in and lead it from start to finish.
“We make it clear that we are not criticizing Sir Amyas Morse, but his review has been set up in such a way as to make independent review impossible.”
He added: “There was clear and inappropriate interference from the two government bodies that were under review.
“The erroneous conclusion of the review must be rejected and Parliament must seek to properly resolve the loan fee scandal.”
Meanwhile, Labor Co-Chair Ruth Cadbury said: “We now know that the Chancellor’s press secretary was involved in handling press inquiries to the magazine and that there was an inappropriate close relationship between the The Review Secretariat team, made up of Treasury and HMRC staff, as well as Treasury and HMRC, whose policy was under scrutiny.
“It shatters any illusion of genuine independence and the point is, this exam fails even the elementary tests of how an independent review should work.”
Responding to comments, Sir Amyas Morse said: “My independent review of loan charges represented my own judgment on the evidence I heard – including over 700 individual impact statements.
“My 20 recommendations included the need to make both significant changes to loan fees and HMRC’s future approach to tackling tax evasion.
“My findings speak for themselves and show that I was independent from the government.”
He added: “Any suggestion that I have been (or could have been) unduly influenced by the officials who supported me ignores the fact that the report is mine, and my ten years of experience. to the National Audit Office to hold the government to account. “
A government spokesperson said: “As these documents show, the Independent Loan Charge Review was completely independent from the government. Its recommendations led to significant legislative changes.
“Sir Amyas enjoyed complete independence and discretion over how the review was conducted, who was involved and who it engaged with and the content of the final report.”