Presenters claim BBC forced them to set up personal companies
A group of 170 BBC presenters have accused the corporation of forcing them to set up special tax vehicles to allow it to avoid paying millions in National Insurance contributions (NIC).
In an open letter, representatives for the group accused the BBC of lying when it denied asking its staff to set up personal service companies (PSCs).
They said they were told they would no longer work for the company if they refused to set up a PSC.
Many are now being pursued by HMRC for unpaid tax bills, some running into thousands of pounds.
In the letter, the group said: "The BBC did in effect force many presenters, both staff and freelance, into setting up PSCs.
"Presenters were told that if they did not form a PSC, the BBC would no longer give them any work.
"The BBC paid them through their company for many years. Because they were not employees the BBC avoided paying employer's National Insurance contributions, currently 13.8% of salary and saved the costs of statutory benefits and pensions."
It added: "The BBC's press statement attempts to put the moral and financial errors the BBC has made onto the presenters it engages."
The group are now calling on the BBC to pay some of the unpaid tax bill they have been saddled with.
Speaking anonymously to the Telegraph, a well-known TV personality said: "We have sat by for years watching the BBC say this is nothing to do with them, as if we all spontaneously and independently decided to set up personal service companies at the same time.
"We were never given the option of being staff. This was industrial level tax avoidance by the BBC."
They added: "People have been reluctant to speak out because they don't want it to look as if big stars are complaining about paying too much tax.
"That's not what this is about. This also affects many local television and radio people who are not paid a lot of money, and are now being investigated. People are seriously upset."
Later this year, presenters Joanna Gosling, Tim Wilcox and David Eades will go to court to fight a joint tax bill of nearly £1 million.
A BBC spokesman told the Telegraph: "The use of personal service companies is legal, complies with tax legislation and should not result in any avoidance of the tax or the NIC due to the Exchequer.
"The BBC's use of PSCs was reviewed independently by Deloitte in 2012, which found no evidence of tax avoidance or individuals being forced to move from staff contracts on to PSCs.
"Individuals with a PSC usually engage an accountant to file accounts. Their accountant should have been advising them on the implications of IR35."