Employee or Contractor? Broadcast Journalist Receives £400,000 Tax Bill

3rd February 2020 by

Establishing a company to act as an intermediary between yourself and your clients can have substantial tax advantages. However, such arrangements are pointless if the underlying relationship is, in substance, one of employment, as shown in a case involving a broadcast journalist.

Via her personal service company, the journalist entered into a seven-year contract with a national broadcaster. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) took the view that Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions should have been deducted from her income at source. That was on the basis that, had the company been taken out of the equation with her providing her services directly to the broadcaster, there would have been a contract of employment.

After HMRC raised demands against the company totalling £419,151, the journalist pointed out that, during the course of the contract, she had considerable editorial independence. She had set up the company on the broadcaster’s suggestion and was not receiving the same range of benefits as its employees. Her challenge to the demands was, however, rejected by the First-tier Tribunal.

In dismissing her appeal against that outcome, the Upper Tribunal found that she had, in effect, held a full-time job with the broadcaster under a fixed-term contract. The broadcaster had the right not only to require her to work on particular days, but to direct what work she did. It could also edit her material as it saw fit and had ultimate control over the way she provided her services. The relationship with the broadcaster was, therefore, that of an employee.

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