BBC 'must release emails that helped stars avoid tax': MPs put pressure on corporation
Corporation refuses request from MPs to see correspondence between BBC tax advisers and staffDecision not to publish is further damaging trust in BBC, politicians sayEmails are linked to stars paid via service companies, a set-up that could allow them to avoid tax and national insurance
BBC Trust says auditors have looked at emails and found nothing suspicious
11:20 GMT, 2 January 2013
00:58 GMT, 3 January 2013
Under fire: BBC Trust finance chief Anthony Fry has rejected a request to hand the emails to MPs and has not read them himself
The BBC is facing pressure from MPs to publish emails that could show the broadcaster gave the opportunity to two of its performers to avoid tax.
The messages came to light in an independent report into the corporation’s tax arrangements late last year following concerns about it paying some individuals through ‘personal service companies’.
A Deloitte review carried out on behalf of the BBC found the broadcaster had taken into account ‘a range of tax outcomes’ for two people who were paid via personal service companies.
It also criticised ‘inconsistency’ in the BBC’s approach to pay.
It pointed out individuals with similar jobs were being paid in three different ways: some as staff, some as freelancers and others via the controversial companies.
The BBC conceded the personal service deals gave ‘greater opportunity’ for avoiding tax and National Insurance payments.
Since the report there has been pressure on the broadcaster to reveal what was in the ‘range of tax outcomes’ emails.
The messages are understood to contain advice from one or more of its tax advisers. It is thought they were sent to BBC managers who were negotiating contracts with presenters.
Conservative MP Richard Bacon, who sits on the Public Accounts Committee, said: ‘The issue is one about trust at the end of the day.’ He added: ‘If they have got nothing to hide then why keep them private… they could always redact the names, it is the information people are after.’
Stars: Broadcasters (left to right) Jeremy
Paxman, Chris Moyles, Emily Maitlis and Fiona Bruce are all thought to
have been paid via controversial service companies, but emails linked to
the practice won't be released
In comments to another newspaper he
added: ‘The emails should also be published because sunlight is the best
disinfectant. Public trust has fallen in the BBC and the best way to
restore it is to be open.’
Anthony Fry, chairman of the BBC
Trust’s finance committee, has so far resisted the call to reveal what
is in the emails. He has also not read the emails in question.
At the end of last year, the BBC said
that more than 100 performers should be added to its books to avoid
suspicions of tax avoidance. It also said it would move away from its
policy of employing many of its on-air stars through their own service
In the report the BBC had identified
131 employees – either currently paid via the service companies or on
freelance contracts – who would be asked to go on the payroll and be
taxed at source.
Refusal: The BBC paid Deloitte to trawl through the emails and they say they are happy there was nothing of note in them
This could mean stars such as Fiona Bruce and Jeremy Paxman are told to become employees.
There is no suggestion either has used personal service companies to avoid paying tax.
But it emerged that the broadcaster
faces a bitter battle with high-profile stars over plans to add them to
the staff payroll. Performers will be subjected to an ‘employment test’
to see if they have the ‘characteristics’ of a BBC staff member.
A BBC Trust spokesman said: ‘Tax experts Deloitte were engaged to carry out a comprehensive review.
‘The Trust is satisfied that Deloitte
reviewed everything in the round, including the documents referred to,
and concluded that there was no evidence of tax avoidance and more
generally a high level of tax compliance.’