A Scottish Conservative MP has spoken out in support of oil and gas sector workers caught up in an HMRC crackdown on tax avoidance for taking up schemes they were assured were “above board”.
Aberdeen South MP Ross Thomson said his constituency mailbox and surgeries have been “inundated” with complaints from people who were advised to set themselves up as personal limited companies and get off the company books.
All of those who did so, Mr Thomson said, were under the impression that there was nothing wrong or illegal with what are termed ‘disguised renumeration schemes’.
The MP was speaking during a Westminster Hall debate on the issue.
He cited examples of several constituents who are being pursued by HMRC – in some cases for hundreds of thousands of pounds – because the 2019 Loan Charge is being applied retrospectively.
During the debate, Mr Thomson said:
“My inbox and my surgeries have been inundated.
“I represent Aberdeen South, which is the energy capital of Europe and the hub of our oil and gas industry.
“Many who worked in oil and gas were actively encouraged by their companies to get involved with such schemes, to set up a personal limited company and to get off the company books.
“Many did so for many years. Many felt assured that they were being advised by chartered accountants and tax advisers that everything was above board.
“It was their belief that their professional accountant could not advise anything illegal, otherwise their chartered status would be revoked.
“For many, this option seemed to be the obvious choice. The retrospective nature of this decision is causing great distress. As has been said, there is a huge human cost.”
Mr Thomson added: “It is right that we condemn those who sold on and encouraged such schemes.
“It is deeply unfair that we seek to do this retrospectively.
“I think that this particular measure is disgraceful. I think it is dishonourable and should be stopped.”