BBC ‘profited from Ackroyd’s PSC set-up’

A respected tax barrister has backed a charge to ContractorUK that the BBC was not blameless in the £400,000 liability that presenter Christa Ackroyd racked up under IR35.

Jolyon Maugham, the director of the Good Law Project and a QC of Deveraux Chambers, took to social media to say that the BBC has ‘profited’ from its arrangement with Ackroyd.

Some backing of his belief appears in the CAM Ltd V HMRC judgment (which notes that the BBC encouraged her to use a PSC), as it says: “The BBC did not want Ms Ackroyd to be an employee.

“And we also infer that they did not want any potential liability for PAYE and national insurance if she were to be classified as an employee.”

Maugham believes that “no one” comes out of the case well (not the presenter nor HMRC, he says), but online, he also accused the BBC of being “disingenuous” about its usage of PSCs.

In a statement in its own news item on the case, the corporation seemed to address his accusation, saying that use of PSCs was “entirely legitimate and common practice” in 2001.

The statement goes on to point out that, until April 2017, it was for the person being engaged -- as opposed to the body engaging them, to determine their IR35 status for tax purposes.

The BBC added that a review run by Deloitte in 2012 found “no evidence” that the BBC had attempted to avoid income tax or NICs by engaging personnel via service companies.

Meanwhile in the BBC item, Ms Ackroyd responds to the judgment against her, which states that she did not realise that IR35 was engaged and so ought not to be criticised.

She said: “That it has taken five years is an indication of the complexity of IR35 legislation regarding freelance broadcasters.

“As you can imagine I have suffered five horrendous years of innuendo and gossip suggesting I am a tax cheat. This judgment proves once and for all I am not.”

On his Twitter page, Mr Maugham seems to disagree. “Ackroyd profit[ed] from tax avoidance,” he wrote. “[And the] government knows of loopholes but won't close them.”

Abbey Tax, a status advisory, says the key lesson of the Ackroyd case for contractors wanting to stay outside IR35 is to get their contracts reviewed before entering them.

But there are possible difficulties in conducting an IR35 review in advance of a project starting because arrangements might evolve, an ex-head of investigations at HMRC, Chris Leslie, has said.

Profile picture for user Simon Moore

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.
Printer Friendly, PDF & Email

Contractor's Question

If you have a question about contracting please feel free to ask us!

Ask a question

Sign up to our newsletter

Receive weekly contractor news, advice and updates.

Every sign up will be entered into a draw to WIN £100 Amazon Vouchers.

* indicates required