Big Bad Wolff loses £147k NICs appeal

Actor Robert Glenister has lost a NICs appeal over the operations of his personal service company (PSC), Big Bad Wolff, at an Upper Tribunal

The star, known for his roles in Hustle and Spooks, was a director of the PSC and received employment income and dividends in respect of his acting services.

The appeal, Big Bad Wolff Ltd v HMRC, [2019] UKUT 0121, was against a decision that the PSC, and therefore the actor, was liable to pay £147,547 in primary and secondary Class 1 National Insurance contributions (NICs) in respect of his earnings.

The judges noted that the company’s arguments ‘relied to a significant extent on comments made in non-statutory material (including explanatory notes to Finance Bills and HMRC consultation documents)’, but said their relevance should not be overstated.

‘This was on the grounds they often include summaries of statutory provisions prepared by people who are unskilled in statute law and as a result risked being ‘wrong or misleading’ and were no more than ‘a generalised precis of the regulations,’ the ruling stated.

The tribunal rejected Big Bad Wolff’s appeal, stating: ‘In effect, it is asserted that entertainers, who may have achieved considerable commercial success (and other taxpayers covered by the Categorisation Regulations such as lecturers and teachers) should enjoy the special privilege of being able to avoid NIC by contracting through personal service companies rather than directly.

‘The company has not shown us any provision explaining why entertainers (or teachers and lecturers) should enjoy any such special privilege; nor has it provided any reasons why they should.’

The tribunal concluded that ‘the interpretation of the legislation that HMRC advance is entirely consistent with, and indeed reflective of, the overall purpose of the provisions’.

Big Bad Wolff Ltd and HMRC, [2019] UKUT 0121 ruling

Report by Pat Sweet

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