BBC presenters defeated at tax tribunal

20 September 2019

In the latest of many cases investigating the employment status of TV presenters, David Eaves, Tim Wilcox and Joanna Gosling have all been found to be within the scope of IR35 following appeal of their remaining £300,000 cumulative tax bill.

  • The BBC had forced the presenters to provide their services through a limited company, with no warning of the IR35 implications.
  • The two tribunal judges took opposing views over the IR35 status and the case was decided on a casting vote
  • Judge Harriet Morgan concluded there was “sufficient mutuality and at least a sufficient framework of control” to demonstrate employed status.
  • Liability was restricted to a four-year period as the tribunal found the presenters and their accountants to have “acted in good faith”, preventing HMRC from claiming additional liability that could have applied if the appellants had been found to be ‘careless’.

Aspire Comment

The fact that this case has taken 8 years to reach conclusion and had to be decided on a casting vote demonstrates the difficulty in interpreting employment status for the correct application of the IR35 legislation. Whilst HMRC continues to augment its CEST Tool for defining status, the complexity of the interpretation process means that this seems unlikely to give any definitive result to avoid ambiguity in future. Contractors should take advice and ensure that they carefully review the content of their written contracts and manner in which they are required to provide their services to correctly define if the supply will be inside of IR35. This will be particularly important in light of the amendment to IR35 which is due to be introduced in April 2020.  The content of the written contract and detail of how the contractor is required to work will be critical – contractor beware!