IR35: Eammon Holmes condemns HMRC as ‘the department of thievery’

Eammon Holmes has publicly lashed out at HMRC, condemning it as the “department of thievery.”

On the channel GB News, the veteran TV presenter used his breakfast show to remark “they will do that” – referring to HMRC and thievery – “if they can get away with it.”

In the show’s segment, meant to be about non-dom tax status, Mr Holmes left viewers in no doubt that his gripe is with the taxman’s off-payroll rules.

'Ruthlessly pursued under IR35'

“The people who are being persecuted for IR35…are ruthlessly pursued [by HMRC],” the 62-year-old said. “For really no reason at all.”

A former presenter of This Morning, Mr Holmes is currently sitting on an IR35 defeat to the Revenue relating to when he anchored the ITV programme.

It is a court defeat from 2018 that landed him a tax bill of £250,000.

Documents filed at tribunal since then, in 2020, by the presenter’s PSC -- Red, Green and White Ltd -- indicated that the quarter-of-a-million-pound tax bill would be appealed. 

While that appeal hearing is still understood to be incoming, Mr Holmes clearly had the hefty HMRC demand on his mind in February of this year.

'The Revenue ruins lives'

Again going off-script against IR35 as he co-presented a GB News programme, he said at the time of the Revenue: “They ruin lives; they actually ruin people.

“And they say ‘not only are we going to reclassify you; we’re going to go back into your records and you’re going to owe us money you never thought you owed in the first place.’”

In the February outburst, GB News co-host Angela Rippon tried to contain him, but in his latest outburst this month, his current co-presenter Isabel Webster just looks on.

'Hounded for money they don't have'

“There’s no consistency to tax rules,” began Mr Holmes, who also took issue with “loan charges,” after the HMRC policy was mentioned to him by a guest on the programme, BBC Radio 6 DJ Liz Kershaw (who is also a high-profile critic of IR35).

Mr Holmes added: “The Inland Revenue is basically the department of thievery. [People] get hounded for money they don’t have.”

To the Public Accounts Committee in February, HMRC said it was “making progress” on “media” sector IR35 cases, estimating almost half of some 200 cases to have been settled.

But sent queries by ContractorUK as its ‘soft landing’ for the new IR35 off-payroll rules ended earlier this month, HMRC said it does not target specific sectors for IR35 compliance.

The tax authority also denied that the end of its light touch on IR35-related penalties would affect either its internal staffing or externally, companies’ status determinations.  

'Reasonable care obligations'

Adam Topham of outside IR35 advisory 34square appears to agree, as he believes the penalty moratorium ending should not necessarily mean open-season on penalties is beginning.

“There are straightforward ways to meet legislative and ‘reasonable care’ obligations with no risk of penalties or back-tax,” he says.

“But this message isn't necessarily reaching the [contractor] community. In my view, it's recruiters who need to carry that message, but many aren't sufficiently in the know or [they] have insufficient influence with clients to make a difference.”

'Conundrum, injustice'

In the same online post, Mr Topham explained that the issue with recruiters was a “conundrum” which his business was trying to solve.

But to TV’s Eamonn Holmes, and other PSC directors who find themselves on the wrong side of IR35, the conundrum has a sharp financial edge.

Asked on LinkedIn how much of a rate uplift makes inside IR35 as financially worthwhile as outside IR35, Clarity Umbrella boss Lucy Smith advised:

“As a rule of thumb, if you look to cover the employment costs – so Employer’s National Insurance, Apprenticeship Levy and the brolly’s margin, you will need around a 23% uplift on your limited company rate. Oh and yes, also consider any expenses you won’t be able to claw back for tax relief via the umbrella, and then build those in too.”

Responding to retweets by contractors endorsing his on-air comments about IR35, Mr Holmes tweeted: “People don't care ... they can't see the injustice. Until it happens to them.”

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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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