More than 160 presenters urge BBC boss to resolve employee tax ‘catastrophe’

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A group of more than 160 BBC local and network presenters has written to the corporation’s director-general, Tim Davie, urging him to resolve the “ongoing catastrophe of IR35”.

The broadcaster has faced controversy over its use of personal service company (PSC) arrangements, which left some employees owing sums to HMRC while losing out on benefits such as sick and maternity pay.

It comes as the corporation is dealing with the fallout from the findings of the report from Lord Dyson into Martin Bashir’s 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.

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BBC director-general Tim Davie (Chris Radburn/PA)

The letter addressed to Mr Davie and seen by the PA news agency says: “Dear Tim,

“Recent revelations about the unethical conduct of Martin Bashir and Tony Hall has crystallised something for this group.

“BBC’s management’s dishonest conduct towards staff, and cavalier attitude to the law and to MPs; its punishment of whistle blowers; the habit of BBC management to conceal its failures; its lack of moral courage and unwillingness to deal with problems of its own making – all of these help to explain the ongoing catastrophe of IR35.

“In 2017 we presented Tony Hall with a dossier demonstrating that the BBC’s IR35 policy and its unlawful handling of our tax affairs was causing despair and hardship. Some presenters were going to food banks or driving Ubers to make ends meet.

“A committee was set up under Bob Shennan to resolve these matters. Very little progress was made.”

Lord Dyson – Bashir report
Former BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall (David Parry/PA)

It continues: “In 2018 we took these matters to the DCMS select committee, which issued a strong condemnation of BBC management’s conduct. In meetings, Glyn Isherwood described this as ‘noise’.”

It added: “We want you to admit this situation was the fault of managers and not presenters and set out a clear written plan to rectify the situation.”

IR35 rules were introduced in 2000 to prevent people who would ordinarily be viewed by HMRC as employed from being taxed as if they were self-employed.

By using companies rather than employing the presenters as staff, the BBC did not have to pay National Insurance contributions.

Some have accused the BBC of forcing them to set up special tax vehicles to allow the corporation to avoid paying millions in national insurance contributions, with many pursued by HMRC for unpaid tax bills, some running into thousands of pounds.

Former director-general Lord Tony Hall, who stepped down last year, admitted in January 2019 that some staff had been previously pushed into entering an outside pay scheme with the BBC which left them with substantial tax bills.

A BBC spokesman said: “As we’ve seen with recent high profile tax cases, matters surrounding broadcasters, presenters and employment tax status are highly complex.

“In recent years we’ve sought to help individual presenters to resolve historical IR35 tax issues and have been working closely with them to reach a solution. We are making steady progress.

“We regret the stress this has caused valued members of our presenter community and hope to find fair conclusions as swiftly as possible.”