Ali G act wins Richard & Judy tax case

Richard Madeley’s Ali G impression convinced a special tax commissioner that
he and his wife Judy Finnigan were entitled to claim thousands of pounds in tax

Richard & Judy won their battle with the tax authorities over whether or
not their agents fees are deductible, as the special commissioner deciding the
case gave some guidelines to entertainers as to who could claim the deductions
and who could not.

Madeley & Finnigan have been allowed to claim deductions for up to six
years, which were described as ‘very substantial’ in court documents. It is
thought that on salaries of £1m each, and with deductions of up to 17.5%
allowed, six year’s worth of tax advantages are likely to be in the hundreds of

The special commissioner in the case, Howard Nowlan, concluded that the pair
were indeed ‘theatrical artists,’ the point at issue. Theatrical artists are
allowed to claim the deduction whereas others are not under a strict
interpretation of the rules.

Having watched various ‘skits’, including Richard Madeley’s infamous Ali G
impression, Nowlan said that he had concluded the pair were theatrical artists,
not least because much of their work was improvised.

He added that newsreaders would not be able to claim the deductions: ‘I would
certainly accept that newsreaders and the weathermen on television are not
“theatrical artists”. Few will forget Angela Rippon’s “high kick”, and I accept
that the weathermen usually perform an amusing Christmas carol shortly before
Christmas. I also accept that with the cult of the celebrity, more attention is
given to the appearance and personality of newsreaders than in the past, but I
still consider that their role is passive.’

Bruce Forsyth and Ant and Dec can claim, but Jeremy Paxman and John Humphrys
might not be able to. ‘Chris Tarrant on “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” is
border-line. But Anne Robinson on “Weakest Link” is indeed probably theatrical,’
he says.

Skits ‘very funny’

Richard and Judy’s appeal rested on whether the daytime TV presenters could
be fairly described as ‘theatrical artists’ and therefore allowed to deduct
their agents’ fees from their taxes.

Special commissioner Howard Nowlan said he had found the case difficult and
indeed had ‘wavered’ in both directions in whether to find in favour of Richard
and Judy. In the end however, he concluded that he accepted ‘without hesitation’
that Richard and Judy were ‘entertainers and they are performers’.

For the purposes of the case he watched video recordings of Richard &
Judy’s show, including ‘skits’ in which the pair performed. Mr Nowlan said:
‘Riddled with lines such as whether ‘marmalade is her final answer, the skit is
again very funny and entirely in line with the characters that the two
performers portray in the programme.’

Read the full judgment

Related reading