Over 100 BBC stars under IR35 investigation

At least 100 news presenters at the BBC who use -- or used -- Personal Service Companies (PSCs) are being investigated under IR35.

They are on a list of 469 media professionals who the taxman is said by a tribunal to be “working through,” since the BBC engaged them as PSCs to be its ‘on-air talent.’

All 469 were first listed on behalf of the BBC in 2012, when an internal review it set up to show tax compliance exposed “some” of the PSCs “to have characteristics of employment.”

In fact, out of a BBC sample of 804 freelancers – the 469 PSCs, plus 335 sole traders, “16% of them should be prioritised” for a status assessment, found Deloitte, which ran the review.

“The BBC…will look in detail at all of this group,” said the BBC-commissioned review, not seeming aware that the 469 PSCs in the group would eventually be looked at by HMRC too.

This scrutiny by the corporation will allow it “to determine the most appropriate contracting relationship for each one,” added the review, which has been obtained by ContractorUK.

In the review, Deloitte goes on to clear the BBC of any tax wrongdoing, but not without an admission by the BBC that it is “impossible for us to guarantee that all individuals [in the PSCs] are paying the appropriate tax and NICs.”

It is this impossibility that the taxman has seized on, resulting initially in 23 PSCs at the BBC facing IR35 enquiries in May 2015; before rising to 29 in June, 80 by July and 100 today.

The figures were disclosed last week in a tribunal’s ruling, and they raise the prospect that some of the BBC’s best-known TV presenters could become IR35’s highest-profile victims.

For example, the BBC newsreaders Tim Willcox and Joanna Gosling are already fighting off HMRC’s charge that they are inside the legislation, in what is regarded as the test case.

At the tribunal, held for matters relating to the duo’s defence, the BBC said: “The appeals are likely to be the first cases to test the freelance model in the broadcasting industry against the IR35 legislation.”

Jennifer Henderson, the BBC’s head of global mobility and employment added: “The BBC has learned that HMRC is staying other appeals behind these ones, thereby giving the impression that these proceedings will effectively be treated as test cases.”

Editor’s Note: Further Reading –

Top 10 IR35 myths debunked

IR35 enquiry – protecting yourself from HMRC

How to avoid IR35 – an updated guide for contractors

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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