BBC host in IR35 battle ‘forced to use a limited company’

A BBC presenter contesting an IR35 tax bill has reiterated what her colleagues have all said -- that limited companies (or 'PSCs') were forced on them by the public-funded broadcaster.  

Joanna Gosling, whose use of a Personal Service Company attracted HMRC scrutiny in 2014, says she was told by the BBC to become an incorporated business for her work at BBC News, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Alongside David Eades and Tim Wilcox, two other BBC newsreaders, Ms Gosling is appealing against an HMRC tax bill – under IR35 – amounting to £900,000.

But her central argument to a tax tribunal at the High Court that she was made to use a limited company (or face a 30% pay cut), was not acknowledged a few days earlier outside of court by the BBC’s top brass.

In fact, when asked by MPs at an oral evidence session for the Public Accounts Committee, Anne Bulford, deputy-director general of the BBC, appeared to duck the issue of whether limited company sage was instructed.

“I think there are many different groups of people running through this,” she said. “I think the conclusion that people haven’t been asked to move from staff contracts onto PSCs is correct.”  

In Ms Gosling’s case, experts have pointed out that it was the ditching of her PSC in favour of joining the BBC’s payroll that alerted HMRC to the prospect that IR35 may have applied.

Her evidence to the tribunal revealed that she would have been forced to take a 30% pay cut -- and have to become a producer if she was going to go on staff. At no point, she submitted, was she offered a staff role as a presenter.

 “When the BBC encouraged people or forced people to form PSCs,” began Paul Lewis, a BBC Radio 4 host to the DCMS committee, which Ms Gosling watched from the gallery.

“It did have a duty of care to say to the them at the time; ‘These are the implications’… ‘You may find that IR35 is imposed on you at some point’… and those warnings were not given”.

Since both his comments and a call for the BBC to bear some responsibility for its presenters’ IR35 bills (on the basis it made them use limited companies), the BBC has made ‘hardship payments’ to the worst affected, and set up an internal, independent process for others seeking help with the HMRC demands.

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