BBC presenters in High Court tax battle

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Three BBC newsreaders are fighting attempts by HM Revenue & Customs to make them pay back nearly £1m in unpaid income tax and national insurance.

The Financial Times reports the three presenters – Joanna Gosling, David Eades and Tim Willcox – claim they were forced to set up personal service companies, rather than going on the BBC payroll.

The claim was made as part of evidence submitted to a tax tribunal in the High Court yesterday.

Georgia Hicks, representing the broadcasters, told the tribunal: “These appeals are but the first in a potentially long line of appeals.

“The presenters are all well-known public figures who are conscious that their reputations are at stake.”

The total amount being claimed by HMRC is over £967,000, though this figure is being disputed.

The BBC has previously denied it asked presenters to set up personal service companies to avoid paying tax and NI.

A BBC spokesman says: “It is the responsibility of individuals to ensure they pay the right tax. In 2013, the BBC adopted a new employment status test that provides a clear and consistent approach to the employment status of journalists and presenters.

“An independent report by Deloitte published in 2012 found no evidence to suggest that the BBC advocated the use of personal service companies as a means of facilitating tax avoidance.”

HMRC says: “We don’t comment on identifiable individuals. Employment status for tax purposes 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.”