Adrian Chiles Faces Ongoing HMRC Battle Over £1.7m Tax Liability

HMRC is showing no signs of backing down in its pursuit of high-profile individuals working through limited companies.  This time, it’s round 2 for broadcaster Adrian Chiles, with HMRC recently appealing the presenters win in the First Tier Tribunal in February 2022 for a £1.7 million tax liability.

Background of the Case

The dispute originally started over a decade ago in 2012, and relates to Chiles’ work for the BBC and ITV through his company, Basic Broadcasting Ltd.  HMRC claimed that IR35 applied to the engagements, resulting in an alleged liability of approximately £1.25 million in Income Tax and £460,000 in National Insurance for work carried out in the tax years spanning 2012/13 to 2016/17.

Initially, the First Tier Tribunal ruled in favour of Chiles in February 2022, stating that he should be “treated as being in business on his own account.”  Although it was found that mutuality of obligation and sufficient frameworks of control existed within both contracts, the tribunal emphasised Chiles’ extensive work with various clients and projects, ultimately categorising the contracts as “contracts for services” rather than “contracts of employment.”

HMRC’s Persistence

Despite the First Tier Tribunal’s decision, HMRC remains undeterred and the appeal was heard in the Upper Tribunal on 6th February 2024, signalling a continued commitment to enforcing compliance and securing a statement IR35 win. This follows a similar pattern seen in other high-profile cases involving freelance presenters, including Kaye Adams and Gary Lineker.

Latest Arguments to the Upper Tribunal

HMRC argues that Chiles’ engagements with the BBC and ITV resembled an employer-employee relationship, citing control exerted over him and the nature of long-term contracts. Chiles’ representatives contend that the tribunal’s decision was well-reasoned and accuse HMRC of attempting a “patently unfair” late-stage appeal, causing additional stress to Chiles and affecting his mental health.

Judgment Awaited

As the case progresses, Chiles faces the prospect of a prolonged legal battle that has extended into a second decade.

As always the devil will be in the detail.  The judgment from the Upper Tribunal appeal is eagerly awaited and will undoubtedly have implications not only for Adrian Chiles but also for the broader landscape of employment-status cases.  B&C will report further once the judgment is published.