Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

BBC stars face pay shake-up in tax row

Some of the BBC's biggest stars will see their pay arrangements change after a controversy over potential tax avoidance.

More than 100 high earners, reported to include Jeremy Paxman and Fiona Bruce, who are currently employed on a freelance basis will become staff.

It comes after a report by the Public Accounts Committee criticised the widespread use of payments to personal service companies by the BBC and others.

The report said using the companies, often for on-air talent, generated a suspicion of “complicity” in tax avoidance.

Last month, the Belfast Telegraph exclusively revealed that around 260 Belfast-based staff were paid off the books by the BBC, some of whom earned more than £50,000.

Some workers were paid through private companies, which can reduce their tax bills and save the broadcaster from making National Insurance contributions.

The practice has previously been criticised as a legal tax dodge and the DUP's Gregory Campbell has described it as “staggeringly inappropriate”.

The broadcaster employs around 650 people in Northern Ireland who are involved in production, technology and business and support.

During 2011/12, 262 staff employed on a freelance basis did not pay tax or national insurance at source, the broadcaster said.

Three of these earned more than £50,000.

These included 51 engaged via personal service companies — an arrangement which allows workers to limit tax liabilities.

The BBC estimated that 131 individuals will be offered staff contracts when current arrangements expire.

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