Freshfields acts for BBC in presenter tax avoidance inquiry

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Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has advised the BBC as a massive investigation by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) into the possible tax avoidance of up to 100 current and former presenters looms.
 
The BBC had tapped Freshfields to prepare for a tax tribunal hearing of newsreaders Tim Willcox and Joanna Gosling by HMRC which happened in July, a Legal Business report revealed.
 
HMRC has ruled that Willcox and Gosling did not pay appropriate taxes by designating that they worked for their own personal service companies rather than the BBC.
 
According to the BBC, HMRC notified them that there are around 100 additional cases under consideration involving current or former BBC presenters.
 
The broadcaster also said that HMRC intends to investigate “presenters who are engaged by other broadcasting organisations.”
 
“The appeals are therefore extremely important not only to the individuals in question, but also to the BBC and to the broadcasting industry as a whole,” the BBC said.
 
An HMRC spokesperson told The Guardian: “Employment status 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.”
 
“While there can be many legitimate business reasons for workers being employed through their own companies, there are rules in place enabling HMRC to make sure people who provide their services in this way pay the right tax and national insurance.”
 
According to Legal Business, the BBC litigation department instructed Michael Furness QC of Wilberforce Chambers and Hui Ling McCarthy of 11 New Square. The broadcaster’s litigation team is headed by Nick Wilcox.
 
Willcox and Gosling were advised by Jonathan Peacock QC of 11 New Square and Marika Lemos and Georgina Hicks of Devereux Chambers, instructed by tax consultancy David Kirk & Co.
 
Legal Business added that HMRC general counsel Gill Aitkin instructed Fountain Court Chamber's Adam Tolley QC and Devereux Chambers' Christopher Stone while HMRC solicitor Katherine Pleming gave evidence to the tribunal.
 

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