Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Paul Bent­ley In­ves­ti­ga­tions Edi­tor

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’

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