U.K. Parliament to Quiz BBC Executives About Pay for On-Air Talent

The inquiry into tax avoidance schemes will turn the spotlight on celebrity presenters' financial rewards.

LONDON – BBC on-air talent's pay and tax affairs will be looked at by members of the British parliament next week as part of an inquiry into employment deals that use personal service companies.

BBC finance chiefs will appear before the public accounts committee to explain the pubcaster's use of such contractual arrangements for presenters and staffers paid more than £100,000 ($155,000) a year.

The inquiry follows outrage over revelations earlier this year that up to 2,400 senior civil servants are paid through arrangements that allow the employee – perfectly legally – to pay lower rates of corporation tax rather than personal taxes, according to a report in The Guardian.

The cross-party committee has called Zarin Patel, the BBC's chief financial officer, and David Smith, the corporation's head of employment tax, to appear before it on Monday.

The newspaper report noted that the BBC has already admitted it employs more than 3,000 staff on service company contracts.

The committee is concerned about staff on higher salaries who are likely to do most or all their work for the BBC, in particular 36 people who are paid over £100,000 a year, The Guardian says.

MPs will also want to know if any of them are TV or radio presenters.

Public accounts committee chair Margaret Hodge told the newspaper that there is a need for MPs and the committee to "understand whether this is tax avoidance or a legitimate business practice."

Hodge told The Guardian: "If in that group there are presenters, I think probably we will legitimately want to know. I have got a very simple principle here: if you earn your wage on the back of the taxpayers, and they do in effect because they get their money from the licence fee, you have a moral imperative to lead by example."

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