BBC presenters lose IR35 tribunal

Three BBC presenters have lost a tribunal with HMRC in relation to personal service companies (PSCs) the presenters had to set up to receive payment from the broadcaster.

The First Tier Tribunal heard that David Eades, Tim Willcox and Joanna Gosling, presenters on BBC News and World Channels, were forced by the BBC to create the PSCs in order to receive payment, from 2003 and 2004 until 2014.

The presenters were deemed to be employees in all but name, which makes them liable to be taxed under IR35, legislation which is designed to tackle tax avoidance by “disguised employees”.

The tribunal stated: “The BBC were in a unique position and used it to force the presenters into contracting through personal service companies and to accept reductions in pay.”

HMRC has been investigating the presenters for the last eight years, £920,000, of which about £300,000, consisting mostly of employer’s national insurance, is understood to be outstanding, the personal amounts were not disclosed.

The BBC has acknowledged responsibility for the contracts and has said it will help to resolve the cases.

A joint statement reported by the Financial Times, said: “We have endured eight years of HMRC investigation and eventual determinations to reach this point on what is clearly a difficult and unclear subject even for judges. It has been a depressing and stressful period for each of us.”

An HMRC spokesperson added: “HMRC welcomes the judgement that the presenters are within the intermediary rules; this builds on previous related First Tier Tribunal decisions.”

Andy Chamberlain, deputy director of Policy at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, said: “That this case has taken eight years and ended up with an uncertain split decision shows how confusing and unfit for purpose IR35 is.

“We will look at the judgement in detail but the uncertainty in the decision is likely to add to the chaos around this legislation. Recently, HMRC has lost the majority of these cases. There is little evidence that they or other experienced tax specialists are confident in how it works.”

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