MPs seek more tax assurances from BBC

Pay slip

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The Public Accounts Committee wants the BBC to explain how it will ensure that staff with 'off-payroll' contracts are paying the correct amount of tax.

In a report published on Thursday, the PAC pointed out that the BBC had identified 25,000 contracts for people who were not taxed at source, including 13,000 for 'talent', but that it could not offer any assurance that the individuals concerned were paying appropriate amounts of tax.

The report has prompted Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, to write to George Entwistle. 'I've written to the new director general of the BBC, drawing his attention to the review we undertook, and suggesting that this might be something the BBC wants to look at,' he said.

The BBC has already said that it will review these arrangements, and PAC has asked that it considers 'whether the contracts resemble typical employment contracts, their duration and the number of repeat contracts and the salaries involved'.

MP Margaret Hodge, chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said she was 'shocked' by the number of people the BBC paid in this way. '13,000 of [the 25,000] are for individuals who are on our screens and on the radio every day. They are the public face of the BBC,' she stated.

'The BBC told us that short term engagements are commonplace in the broadcast industry, and that it paid about 25,000 people off-payroll in a year. However, it acknowledged that the contracts of presenters employed through personal service companies can often share the characteristics of typical PAYE contracts.'

The BBC has faced particular criticism for paying some of its long serving freelance presenters through these companies, which can result in lower tax bills for both the Corporation and the individuals.

It was an issue discussed when the BBC's chief financial officer Zarin Patel and head of employment David Smith were called as witnesses by the committee in July as part of its investigation into 'off-payroll' payments across the public sector.

In a statement issued following publication of the report, the BBC said: 'We note the conclusions of the PAC report and will respond to the points raised as part of our detailed review of tax arrangements.'

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