BBC actor's tax bill shows need for self-employed clarity

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Anyone who is self-employed knows how difficult doing their taxes can be. It's a small price to pay for the flexibility and freedom that this style of working allows, but it is still an annoyance that can have serious consequences if it's not done correctly. Someone who recently found this out firsthand is BBC star Robert Glenister.

The actor, who is best known for the TV drama series 'Hustle', has been presented with a staggering tax bill for £147,547. This is due to a ten-year period when the actor worked for the BBC through a personal services company. According to Mr Glenister, this made him self-employed so he did not have to contribute to national insurance.

However, the government disagreed due to a dispute over his IR35 status. This determines whether or not someone is actually self-employed, based on elements such as if they have the freedom to decide when they work. If a contractor is employed on an ongoing basis, for example, it might be decided that they are actually employed by their client.

This is how HMRC saw Mr Glenister during the ten-year stint at the BBC, and as such determined that he owed almost £150,000 in national insurance contributions. The actor disputed this at a First-tier Tax Tribunal, but he lost the case.

Talking to the Financial Times, Mr Glenister described the situation as "yet another unfair cash grab that treats genuinely self-employed actors as employees, contrary to government policy". He also clarified: "This is not a tax avoidance case and we are considering an appeal."

The revelation that Mr Glenister owes so much tax has angered several self-employment advocacy organisations, in particular the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE). In a press release, it said the case highlighted the confusion and need for clarity surrounding self-employment.

Andy Chamberlain, IPSE’s deputy director of policy, said: "The rules which govern how individuals pay tax are absurdly complex and it is all too easy for individuals to fall foul of them. IPSE has called for a statutory definition of self-employment which would bring much needed clarity to this area.

"Freelancing is crucial to the UK economy, adding £119bn each year. We need a tax system that these businesses can understand and comply with."

IR35 legislation has the potential to affect many freelancers. If you are concerned about the possible ramifications of being caught out by HMRC, then Brookson can help you. You can download our free guide on the subject, or talk to us for advice and assistance.

By Victoria McDonnell

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