A BBC presenter who lost an IR35 case against HMRC is now appealing the decision.

Christa Ackroyd, who anchored the BBC’s Look North for more than a decade, was ordered to pay a £419,000 tax bill.

Like hundreds of other on-air stars, Ackroyd was engaged by the BBC through her own personal service company (PSC). This arrangement meant that her tax payments were lower than if she had been on staff payroll.

But a tribunal later found Ackroyd to be a disguised employee. She therefore became liable for taxes covering tax years 2006/7 to 2012/13.

A new hope

This week, it is being reported that Ackroyd is bringing an appeal to the Upper Tribunal. This offers hope to hundreds of other presenters being retrospectively pursued by HMRC in similar cases.

According to The Times, Ackroyd is appealing on two grounds.

“The first challenges the tribunal’s acceptance of HMRC’s argument that because Ackroyd was bound by the corporation’s editorial guidelines, she was in effect a BBC employee,” The Times said.

Direct contract

“The second centres on whether Ackroyd had a direct contractual relationship with the BBC. Her lawyers argue that although the BBC may have thought that it was contracting the presenter through a PSC, it was actually contracting her directly. If this was the case then IR35 rules, which govern the tax paid by those who work for clients through an intermediary, do not apply.”

If Ackroyd successfully appeals on the direct contract point, presenters in a similar position could also contend that the BBC is responsible for employer’s national insurance contributions.

Forced into PSC arrangements

The BBC denies forcing presenters into PSC arrangements. However, many presenters claim they were required to do so in order to continue working for them. In 2012, a Deloitte report criticised the BBC for paying over 100 stars via PSCs. Following this, the corporation reviewed its arrangements and brought 85 presenters onto its books. Ackroyd was not one of them.

Following the February 2018 judgement, Ackroyd said: “While under contract, I remained confident that the BBC contract drawn up by the BBC's legal department was what it was described as – a ‘for services’ freelance contract.”

The BBC has already started a process to establish whether it should make contributions towards some presenters who are facing retrospective tax bills.

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