HMRC wins £140k tax case against Talksport’s Paul Hawksbee

HMRC wins £140k tax case against Talksport’s Paul Hawksbee

HM Revenue and Customs has won a £140,000 IR35 tax case at the Court of Appeal against Talksport host Paul Hawksbee.

The radio presenter unsuccessfully appealed a 2020 Upper Tribunal decision which deemed IR35 - legislation designed to tax 'disguised' employment at a rate similar to employment - did apply while he worked for Talksport between 2012 to 2015.

Hawksbee provided his services as a freelancer through his limited company, Kickabout Productions. He presented Talksport Radio’s “Hawksbee & Jacobs Show”, a three-hour radio programme broadcast every weekday from 1pm to 4pm. 

The judgment, published today (April 26), related to the tax years 2012/13 to 2014/15, totalling £89,758 in Income Tax and £53,368 in national insurance contributions. 

After a First Tier Tribunal in 2019 found in favour of Hawksbee, an appeal made by HMRC was then upheld in a judgment by the Upper Tribunal. 

Hawksbee had appealed on grounds that the Upper Tribunal had “erred” on a number of issues, including in its interpretation of the contracts he had signed with Talksport.

But in the Court of Appeal today, Sir David Richards said: “In my judgement, Kickabout Productions’ submissions disclose no error of principle or approach by the Upper Tribunal and are in substance no more than an attempt to re-argue the issue. I would accordingly reject this ground of appeal.”

Richards said it was wrong to suggest the Upper Tribunal “needed to have all the evidence before it” when it had the First Tier Tribunal’s “unchallenged findings of fact on all relevant matters”.

Elsewhere, HMRC was also granted an appeal of a judgment made in BBC Radio Scotland host Kaye Adams’ favour at the Upper Tribunal in 2021.

The Court of Appeal has instructed for this case to be reheard. The case carries approximately £124,000 of tax liability and relates to her time hosting The Kaye Adams Programme.

In Adams’ case, she provided her services to the BBC through her company Atholl House Productions Limited over the tax years 2013/14 to 2016/17.

Richards, who also sat in on this case, said of Adams’ case: “The Upper Tribunal largely failed to take account of the many features of the contractual terms and their effects, some of which may be seen as pointing to an employment relationship while others may be seen as consistent with Ms Adams being an independent contractor.”

Though the court did reject one of HMRC’s grounds for appeal, arguing freelancer contracts, “like any other agreement in writing”, should not be construed “in a vacuum” but rather in the light of all the admissible facts.

On the Atholl House judgement, a HMRC spokesperson said it "agreed the Upper Tribunal had not applied the law correctly".

They also welcomed the judgement on Hawksbee's Kickabout Productions, which agreed the off-payroll rules apply in this case.