HMRC taxman probes 100 BBC stars over alleged tax avoidance

At least 100 BBC presenters are being investigated over alleged tax avoidance.

HM Revenue & Customs was thought to be pursuing 23 staff over claims they set up elaborate schemes to minimise their liabilities.

But the taxman has now confirmed that the number of high earners in its probe has reached three figures.

Top-flight staff on the BBC’s payroll were routinely paid through controversial personal service companies.

They now face demands to hand back tens of thousands of pounds in unpaid income tax and national insurance.

The BBC stressed the claims were ‘historic’, also involving past presenters, saying the issue was industry-wide.

But a financial expert accused public sector workers of defrauding the tax authorities. Campaigners said BBC licence fee payers who pay their fair share to HMRC would be appalled.

The scandal erupted in 2012 after a report found that the BBC paid more than 124 stars via the service companies.

They included former Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman and Fiona Bruce. There is no suggestion that they are being investigated by HMRC or suspected of wrongdoing.

Following a public outcry the Corporation said it had moved 85 presenters on to its books as full-time employees.

But the rapidly expanding scope of the HMRC’s investigation emerged yesterday in a tribunal judgment against BBC newsreaders Tim Willcox and Joanna Gosling.