HMRC Defeats BBC Presenter "Christa Ackroyd" In IR35 Upper Tax Tribunal

In February 2018, there was a decision taken by the first-tier tribunal stating that Ms. Christa Ackroyd PSC "Christa Ackroyd Media Ltd." is liable to pay outstanding tax and national insurance amounting to £420,000 covering tax years 2006/07 to 2012/13. Ms Ackroyd later challenged this decision in the upper tax tribunal for which the decision was made a few days ago.

As per the recent decision, TV presenter “Christa Ackroyd” lost her appeal against HMRC in the first IR35 ruling since 2011, making her liable to pay £420,000 as outstanding tax under IR35 legislation. It is the first comprehensive victory for HMRC since 2009.

HMRC Defeats BBC Presenter “Christa Ackroyd” In IR35 Upper Tax Tribunal

Know your employment Status

Christa Ackroyd co-presented the BBC’s Look North program via her company named “Christa Ackroyd Media Ltd” and was in a 7 years contract with BBC in order to provide services up to 225 days per year. This show has also remained off-air for a period of 3 months in year 2013 due to the dispute surrounding her freelancing status and the tax payment. She was sacked by the corporation and the contract was terminated in 2013.

She claimed that she was a self-employed person whereas HMRC claimed that the status of Christa Ackroyd was that of an employee and Christa Ackroyd Media Ltd. should pay both the tax as well as the Class 1 National Insurance (NIC).

Contract of Service or Contract for Services?

Ms. Ackroyd said that she should be treated as a self-employed person as she provides services to BBC under a contract for services and there is no tax due on the part of CAM Ltd. HMRC argued she should be treated as BBC employee as she comes under the contract of service hypothetically. Hence, she should pay the appropriate amount of tax and the NIC as per IR35 regulations.

Judge Jonathan Cannan said “After viewing all the significant factors of this case, we arrived at a decision that BBC reserves the right to control and decided what services will be provided by CAM ltd. and takes most of the working time of Ms. Ackroyd which shows that Ms. Ackroyd was an employee under the hypothetical 7 years contract. Therefore, it will be considered as a full-time job.”

This is not the only case in which tax tribunal sided with HMRC. In the previous month too, Judges Mr. Justice Mann & Judge Thomas Scott sided with HMRC & dismissed the appeal of BBC presenter.

As per the ruling, it shows that “Ackroyd’s 7 years contract with BBC was regular, highly stable and continuous arrangement” rather than a short term engagements. Hence, it will be considered as an employment contract.

Employment indicators

As per Contractor Calculator CEO, Dave Chaplin, some of the key factors which are responsible for defeat of BBC presenter Christa Ackroyd are as follows –

  • It was accepted by Ms. Ackroyd that BBC reserves the right to define what services should be provided by CAM (Christa Ackroyd media) ltd.
  • The contract signed by Ms. Ackroyd with BBC restricts her to provide services to other organisations in UK without the BBC consent.
  • BBC had control over the content and manages it. Lying of editorial responsibility with BBC is also one of the reasons that Christa Ackroyd is considered as an employee.
  • The other point which catches the attention was Ms. Ackroyd’s contractual obligation to provide services to BBC and BBC’s contractual obligation of paying fees to CAM Ltd. on a monthly basis.
  • CAM Ltd. was prohibited to use substitute for Ms. Ackroyd.

Statement by Chief executive of “The freelancer & contractor services association”

The chief executive of “The freelancer & contractor services association (FCSA)”, Julia Kermode says that the recent case of Ms. Ackroyd highlighted the debate which is running from last many years but ignored those freelancers and contractors who wish to work for themselves following the current & correct tax legislation.

Ms. Kermode also said that HMRC cannot penalize every freelancer or contractor working through limited companies & assume that all freelancers & contractors are tax avoiders.


HMRC winning this case will surely send negative signals to the freelancers & contractors and they may use this case to impose IR35 tax regulations to the private sector in April 2020. Contractors need to take good care of IR35 compliances unless they will find them under IR35 and will pay a huge amount of tax & national insurance in the coming future.

The full details of the ruling can be read here.

Also Read: BBC Presenters Defeated By HMRC In IR35 Tax Tribunal

Also Read: IR35: Summary of Responses to Off-Payroll Private Sector Consultation

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About the author
Blog Author

Sumit Agarwal
Sumit Agarwal (ACMA ACA India), the Managing partner of dns accountants is a highly respected accountant with expertise in helping owner-managed businesses.

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About the author
Blog Author

Sumit Agarwal
Sumit Agarwal (ACMA ACA India), the Managing partner of dns accountants is a highly respected accountant with expertise in helping owner-managed businesses.


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