NAO reports on its investigation of the BBC’s engagement with PSCs

16 November 2018

The report from the NAO  demonstrates that they have found through their investigations that the BBC has taken steps to help affected individuals, however issues remain unresolved and a number of possible outcomes may have future financial implications for the BBC.

The BBC based its decisions for the taxation of freelance workers on whether roles were employed or self-employed for tax purposes on its understanding of HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) guidance and, for on-air presenters, of industry practice.

‘The government introduced legislation in the Finance Act 2000, commonly known as IR35, to counter concerns that some people were using PSCs to avoid paying the correct amount of tax. It sought to ensure that people who work in the same manner pay comparable income tax and national insurance, whether they are employed directly or work through a PSC.’

‘Central to the application of IR35 is the assessment of an individual’s employment status for tax purposes. However, assessing employment status is complicated as there is no precise statutory test and instead each case must be assessed individually against a number of factors.’

Since April 2017 when the government transferred responsibility for determining employment status for tax purposes of people hired through PSCs to the public bodies hiring them the BBC applied HMRC’s 2017 CEST assessment tool to determine employment status for on-air roles. This generated a different employment status for tax purposes in many cases when compared to the BBC’s previous use of its own assessment test and understanding of HMRC guidance.

By June 2018 the BBC had assessed 663 on-air freelancers using HMRC’s tool and 92% received an ‘employed for tax purposes determination’ this contrasts with the previous outcomes of the BBC assessments where the majority of on-air freelances were deemed to be self-employed.

The report can be downloaded at the NAO website.