BBC tries to reach IR35 deal with HMRC
The BBC is trying to reach a settlement with HMRC over historic tax liabilities which droves of its presenters have incurred under IR35.
Rather than face costly tribunals, the corporation is “hopeful” that, on behalf of affected presenters, it can “deal with” their retrospective IR35 demands “in one go with HMRC.”
Despite making these significant disclosures to MPs last week, the BBC ducked whether it will accept some liability for forcing presenters into a decision they did not want to take.
“Freelancers…who were told they had to set up a personal service company…were reluctant to do that,” began Damian Collins MP, questioning the BBC’s director-general Lord Hall.
“Now if the consequences of those decisions…taken against the wishes of the freelancer or the employee [are] that they have a tax liability…will [the BBC] accept some responsibility for that?”
Although this question represented the second attempt of Mr Collins, chair of the DCMS Select Committee, to extract a straight answer from Lord Hall on an issue IR35 experts have flagged up to ContractorUK, he was still unsuccessful.
In fact, despite being told that some BBC presenters were at risk of losing their homes, and feel “genuinely frightened” because of facing a tax bill they have no means to pay, Lord Hall would only say:
“And that’s why we’re going to HMRC, and that’s why we’re pursuing discussions with them as fast as we can make HMRC talk to us about this.
“I’m concerned about this from the point of view of the people who are working for us and I want to make sure we can get this resolved. So I’m really hopeful HMRC and ourselves can come to some settlement.”
'Nobody else decided'
Earlier in the session, held as part of a probe into the BBC’s Annual Report, Lord Hall suggested it was proactive of the BBC to approach HMRC to try to cut a deal on IR35 bills.
“I don’t think we’ve been sitting back and waiting for things to happen”, he said. “Which is why actually, we decided – nobody else decided – that we wanted to go to HMRC and [see] whether we can get the retrospective issues of this sorted.”
But the corporation’s hand may have been forced, because ContractorUK understands that a large group of BBC presenters have sought legal advice on filing a lawsuit against the BBC, for maladministration.
The development suggests that a recent offer of small, one-off cash payments by the BBC to presenters earning under £45,000, who now face higher compliance burdens due to last year’s IR35 changes, has failed to pacify the BBC’s internal critics.
Of the payments, officially in the low hundreds but reported to be up to £1,000, a BBC spokesman said they were designed to help with the “extra cost” of the public sector IR35 reforms.
Responding to questions from ContractorUK, the BBC spokesman also said: “The changes to tax legislation have resulted in additional complexity and costs for some in producing the legally required financial year end reporting.”
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