Self-Employed Radio Presenter Relieved of £140,000 Tax Demands

Distinguishing between employment and self-employment is a multi-faceted task and not just a matter of ticking boxes. That was certainly so in one case concerning a radio personality who was relieved of six-figure tax demands after a tribunal found that he fell into the latter category.

The man had for 18 years presented a humorous sports-related radio show. He had no contract with the radio station and was paid fees for his work through his personal service company. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), however, took the view that he was an employee of the radio station in all but name.

HMRC raised demands against the company for over £140,000 in Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions that it claimed should have been deducted from the man’s fees at source. It pointed out that, during the four tax years to which the demands related, he had derived about 90 per cent of his income from the radio station. On that basis, it was submitted that, far from operating as a free entity, presenting the show was effectively his job.

In upholding the man’s appeal against that decision, however, the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) accepted his evidence that the radio show was just one of the strings to his bow and that he saw himself primarily as an independent comedy script writer. He enjoyed a large measure of artistic freedom in creating the content of the show, the success of which depended on his humour and originality.

He performed no other role for the radio station and was paid in the form of a fee for each show he presented. He had no entitlement to holiday or sick pay, pension or paternity leave, and received no retainers or bonuses. He worked simultaneously for other broadcasters, and as a freelance script writer. In the circumstances, his relationship with the radio station was not one of employment.