SHAMELESS BBC STARS ARE STILL DODGING THEIR TAX
THE BBC pay row deepened last night after it admitted some of its richest stars use a potential tax dodge.
The high-profile presenters have their salaries routed through personal service companies so they can avoid income tax.
The corporation refused to say which individuals benefit from the cosy deals, which it supposedly banned five years ago.
BBC chiefs have been under siege since obeying a government order to name their 96 staff who earn more than the Prime Minister’s £150,000 salary.
The figures showed up a huge gender pay gap and ten female presenters are reportedly considering suing for discrimination.
The top earners were Chris Evans
with up to £2.25million last year and Gary Lineker with up to £1.8million.
Labour MP Margaret Hodge said the corporation should come clean about which staff were paid ‘off the books’.
She added: ‘ For the BBC not to have dealt with the issue of personal service companies – which are only a vehicle to avoid tax – is just inexcusable. It is unbearable that they have not cracked down on this.’ It also emerged yesterday that: More than 100 BBC managers are on a second ‘rich list’ of staff on £150,000 or more;
As with the broadcasting stars, two thirds are men;
Panicked bosses scrambled to stop Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis leaving;
Radio 4’s John Humphrys said he took a pay cut just before the list was released;
Top earners could be spared exposure by switching to the BBC’s commercial arm.
A public outcry greeted a report in 2012 that found the corporation was paying more than 124 stars via personal service companies.
Used by freelance and casual staff, the arrangement allows workers to be taxed as a company rather than as an individual. That attracts corporation tax of around 20 per cent instead of income tax of up to 45 per cent. Beneficiaries also avoid national insurance and can receive a slice of any dividends tax free.
The system is perfectly legal and was established for flexible workers such as plumbers and childminders.
But critics say it is now widely exploited by highlypaid professionals, including those in the public sector.
BBC bosses pledged to move stars on to its books as full- time employees. But yesterday the corporation confirmed to the Mail that some are still being paid through personal firms, including presenters who appeared on Wednesday’s rich list.
The Mail has discovered that Evans, Jeremy Vine and Claudia Winkleman have personal companies.
Also among the top BBC earners who have private firms are Alan Shearer, Alex Jones, Huw Edwards, Steve Wright, Simon Mayo, Nicky Campbell, Nick Grimshaw, Vanessa Feltz and Radio Ulster presenter Stephen Nolan. But while these stars own personal companies, there is no way of knowing if they are paid by the BBC through them.
The corporation is refusing to say and the presenters either did not comment or did not respond when approached by the Mail.
Vine, who earns up to £749,999 a year from the BBC, owns a firm named Secondhand Daylight, which reported in accounts having more than £500,000 ‘at bank and in hand’.
Another company, Jelly Vine Productions, is owned 51 per cent by Vine, 30 per cent by his wife Rachel and 19 per cent by daughter Martha, who is just 13. Shareholders’ funds are listed as having been £897,000 in 2014 and £253,000 in 2015.
Miss Winkleman’s personal firm Little Owl Productions reported shareholders’ funds of £239,000 last year.
Evans owns the firm Zimple TFI Friday Ltd, which was set up two years ago. It had £164,000 cash last year.
Match of the Day host Lineker’s firm All Jazz was put into liquidation in 2014. He received just over £1million from the closure of the company, which he established in 2009 for ‘television programme production activities’.
There is no suggestion that any of these firms was used to avoid paying all tax due.
Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘It is totally and utterly unacceptable for the BBC to be colluding with presenters to help them avoid paying tax. If they are full time employees they should not be paid through companies.
‘ This loophole must be closed and the BBC should reveal the names of the people being paid in this way.’
More than a third of the BBC’s highest earners could disappear from the list next year. Strictly Come Dancing, The One Show, EastEnders, Casualty and Holby City will be produced by BBC Studios, which is classed as a commercial entity so will not have to publish figures.
A BBC spokesman said: ‘We have nothing to add to the information published on Wednesday.’
‘A vehicle to avoid tax’