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HMRC continues £1.7m tax battle with broadcaster Adrian Chiles

Broadcaster Adrian Chiles remains locked in a legal battle with tax officials as they continue their years-long pursuit of £1.7 million allegedly owed over his BBC and ITV presenting work.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is appealing a 2022 tribunal decision that the presenter’s services provided through his personal company should not be treated as work performed under employment contracts for tax purposes.

Lawyers for Mr Chiles, who attended a hearing in London on Tuesday, say the near decade-long tax fight – hit by legal delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic – has taken a “significant toll” on his mental health.

The presenter previously brought a case against HMRC over the income tax and national insurance the organisation said was due on money ITV and BBC had paid to his “personal service company” Basic Broadcasting Limited (BBL).

Officials had concluded BBL owed £1,249,433 in income tax and £460,739 in national insurance contributions in relation to several BBC and ITV contracts between 2012 and 2017.

The period covered Mr Chiles’s work covering football for ITV and as a radio presenter for the BBC.

HMRC argued that under tax rules Mr Chiles should be treated as if he were an employee of the organisations and that BBL should pay the amounts it is said to owe.

Lawyers for BBL – of which Mr Chiles is the sole director – said the presenter should be treated as a self-employed contractor and there was no further tax liability for the company.

The case relates to IR35 tax rules, which are designed to clamp down on tax avoidance by so-called disguised employees, who charge for their services via limited companies.

Ruling in Mr Chiles’s favour in February 2022, a First Tier Tribunal said there was “no suggestion that Mr Chiles set out to avoid tax by supplying his services through BBL”.

It said “there are tax advantages to using a personal service company if the individual using that company would otherwise be treated as an employee of the client”.

The tribunal found there was a “mutuality of obligation” between Mr Chiles and BBC and ITV, with the two broadcasters having “a sufficient framework of control” over his work.

It concluded overall that Mr Chiles was “in business on his own account” and had entered into contracts that were “part and parcel” of his business, adding they were “contracts for services and not contracts of employment”.

At Tuesday’s Upper Tribunal appeal hearing, lawyers for HMRC argued the lower tribunal had “fallen into legal error”.

Adam Tolley KC, representing the tax body, said in written arguments that ITV’s and the BBC’s “rights of control” over Mr Chiles’s work was “entirely consistent with a relationship of employment”.

The barrister said Mr Chiles was engaged to work for the broadcasters “throughout the entire duration of the relevant tax years” under “substantial, predictable and long-term” contracts.

Mr Tolley said “the respective rights of ITV and the BBC to control the performance of Mr Chiles’ services” under the contracts “pointed powerfully towards a relationship of employment”.

James Rivett KC, representing Mr Chiles, said in written arguments that BBL was incorporated in 1996 because the BBC “required him to cease his employment with a view to his services being provided through what is known as a personal service company”.

The barrister said that in the years since, the presenter had provided his services through the company to nearly 100 different third parties.

Mr Rivett said the lower tribunal’s ruling was “sensible and well-reasoned”, and came after a “careful and thorough consideration” of issues in the case.

He said HMRC was making a “patently unfair attempt at this very late stage to run an entirely new legal and evidential argument”, with the organisation’s approach not coming “close to identifying an error of law”.

Mr Rivett added that if the case were to be re-heard by the First Tier Tribunal it would take the litigation into “a second decade” and would subject Mr Chiles “to more stress and undoubtedly exacerbating his mental health issues”.

Mr Chiles’s work at ITV has included co-presenting the Daybreak breakfast show on GMTV, and covering Champions League and international football matches.

At the BBC, he has appeared on The One Show, Match of the Day 2, The Apprentice: You’re Fired and on Radio 5 Live.

In March last year, Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker won his own £4.9 million IR35-related tax battle with HMRC.

The appeal hearing before Mr Justice Meade and Upper Tribunal Judge Thomas Scott concluded on Tuesday, with a ruling due at a later date.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “We appreciate there’s a real person behind every case and are committed to treating all taxpayers with respect.

“We always seek to resolve disputes out of court and only take action to litigate where this isn’t possible.”