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BBC to change its policy for paying top on-air talent

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The BBC's top stars such as Jeremy Paxman and Fiona Bruce, who are paid big salaries on freelance contracts through their own companies, could be offered staff jobs at the corporation under new payment arrangements announced today (November 7).

An independent review of the BBC's freelance contracting arrangements found that the corporation is "inconsistent" in the way it engages with on-air talent, as some people are hired as staff, some as self-employed and others through personal service companies.

Although not illegal, adoption of the latter practice has led to criticism that the BBC is helping staff avoid paying tax.

Jeremy Paxman

© BBC

Fiona Bruce hosts Antiques Roadshow

© BBC



Following the review, the BBC has said that it will "move away" from the previous position of engaging on-air stars on long-term contracts through their own personal service companies.

It will apply a new employment test to 804 freelance on-air workers. Deloitte, which conducted the review, stated this was "a priority" for scrutiny.

According to the BBC, this could result in around 131 people being offered staff employment when their current contacts expire.

The BBC said that it aims to have the changes in place by the start of the next financial year, April 2013. It will also extend the arrangements to off-air employees paid through a personal service company.

The BBC has declined to reveal which stars use personal service companies, but Newsnight host Paxman has already admitted to using one, called Out in the Dark, and Bruce is known to use a company called Paradox Productions. Chris Moyles and Richard Hammond are also thought to control their own companies.

Chris Moyles, Music Industry Trust Awards 2012

© PA Images

OK Magazine TV Rich List 2011: Richard Hammond

© PA Images / Ian West/PA Wire



Deloitte said that it had found no evidence that the BBC uses personal service companies "to aid income tax or National Insurance Contributions avoidance".

It also noted the freelance model is "critical for the success of the BBC", as it enables creative renewal and delivers "value for money".

BBC chief financial officer Zarin Patel added: "Our review shows the BBC is not using personal service companies to avoid tax or help others avoid tax. Nevertheless, it shows inconsistencies in the way our policy has been applied.

"We are addressing this with a more objective employment test for all new contracts and by developing a new framework with HMRC for self-employed on-air presenters."

In future, the BBC said that it will only extend a contract via a personal service company when it is "absolutely satisfied that an individual should not be on the payroll or self-employed".

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