BBC ‘considers paying IR35 bills of presenters’

The first sign that the BBC may be willing to pay the tax bills of presenters caught by IR35 has emerged -- albeit unofficially, and only if certain conditions are met.

Speaking at the weekend, a BBC insider said that the broadcaster was “keeping an open mind,” when asked if it would pay some of the back-taxes of presenters found inside the rule.

However, there is a “very high hurdle where public money is concerned”, and such presenters would have to be hard-up or low-paid, reported the Sunday Times, which quizzed the insider.

'Complex'

The BBC’s stance on what it has acknowledged to ContractorUK is a “complex” issue – its use of limited company staff – will be outlined tomorrow to the DCMS select committee.

But the outline will be provided not by the BBC, because it has declined to appear to the MP-staffed committee, chaired by the Conservatives' Damian Collins.

Instead, the outline will be provided by PSCs from the BBC, including well-known Radio 4 and Radio 6 presenters, who are expected to submit documents to prove their central claim.

In particular, before ‘Look North’ presenter Christa Ackroyd was found inside IR35, about 100 presenters were known to allege that they were forced by the BBC to use PSCs.

Since a tribunal judge upheld Ms Ackroyd’s claim that she was “encouraged” by the BBC to use a PSC, 70 more BBC presenters have reportedly joined the initial 100, alleging the same.

'External expertise'

These 170 disputers of IR35 status may now be tested, as the BBC has quietly commissioned “external expertise” to review up to 20 years of PSC engagements, The Sunday Times added.

The newspaper’s anonymous source seems to have snookered the expert’s findings though, by already saying that the BBC may -- in “extreme cases” – be prepared to foot liabilities under IR35.

The developments follow a legal expert’s submission to ContractorUK that, in the Ackroyd case, the BBC bears a “responsibility for encouraging [her] to use a personal service company for its own commercial advantage.”

'Highly disappointing'

But the Digital, Cultural, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee won’t be able to put that charge to the BBC tomorrow, due to its refusal to attend.

“It is highly disappointing that the BBC Management did not see fit to send anyone to give evidence at this session given there are many outstanding questions for them to answer on Personal Service Companies,” says Mr Collins.

“Further, the BBC’s answers to our written questions on pay data [at a DCMS committee session on equal pay] were not particularly illuminating, referencing older data and offering nothing new. We are likely to have some robust written questions for the BBC following the session on Tuesday.”

A BBC spokesman said: "We appeared before the select committee very recently, and are doing a huge amount of work to make progress in this area.

"As we have told the committee we are open to appearing before them again once we have more to update them on and have had a chance to consider any new evidence presented on Tuesday.”

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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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