More than 100 BBC stars face tax investigations by the HMRC

High-profile staff at the corporation could face backdated tax bills if they are found to have been incorrectly listed as 'self-employed'

Caroline Mortimer
Sunday 09 October 2016 17:35 BST
The BBC has vowed to 'deliver more' in its faith programming
The BBC has vowed to 'deliver more' in its faith programming (AFP/Getty)

More than 100 BBC presenters are reportedly under investigation by HM Revenue and Customs over claims they have not paid enough income tax and National Insurance contributions.

Officials launched a probe into a “very significant number of BBC news presenters” as well as staff at other broadcasters.

They may face demands for unpaid taxes from between 2006 and 2013 if they are found to have incorrectly defined themselves as “self-employed”.

In July, the BBC announced that it had moved 85 of its stars onto staff contracts. There is no suggestion that any of them deliberately tried to avoid paying tax or did anything illegal.

A report published in 2012 found the corporation had paid more than 120 stars in excess of £150,000 each through service companies.

Following that report the BBC initially announced it would give staff contracts to 131 freelancers.

The HMRC investigation came to light following the ruling on a tax tribunal case brought by BBC newsreaders Tim Wilcox and Joanna Gosling who are appealing against a previous judgement that they failed to pay enough tax during the period when they were classed as “self-employed”, Contractor Calculator reported.

A hearing at the First Tier Tax Tribunal heard that HMRC had begun investigating 23 BBC presenters in May 2015 to establish whether they had violated IR35 rules which regulate self-employment status, the Daily Telegraph reported.

But evidence provided by Jennifer Henderson, the BBC’s head of global mobility and employment, indicated this has risen to “around 100 additional cases”.

The broadcaster told the tribunal: "The BBC also understands that HMRC has initiated or indicated their intention to initiate IR35 proceedings in relation to presenters who are engaged by other broadcasting organisations.

"The appeals are therefore extremely important not only to the individuals in question but also to the BBC and to the broadcasting industry as a whole.

"The appeals are likely to be the first cases to test the freelance model in the broadcasting industry against the IR35 legislation."

In a statement it said its tax affairs were an “industry-wide issue” that “affects those who have been engaged in this way for a number of different organisations".

It added: "It is up to individuals to ensure they pay the right tax, and since 2013, the BBC has adopted a new employment status test that provides a clear and consistent approach to the employment status of journalists and presenters.”

An HMRC spokesperson told the Guardian: “Employment status is never a matter of personal choice and is always dictated by the specific facts.

"When the employment relationship does not accurately reflect the underlying reality of the relationship, the wrong tax is paid then we intervene to ensure the rules apply as parliament intended.

“While there can be many legitimate business reasons for workers being employed through their own companies, there are rules in place enabling HMRC to make sure people who provide their services in this way pay the right tax and national insurance.”

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