The ludicrous case of Richard and Judy

So it is that we come to our second story on the tax affairs of daytime TV doyens Richard & Judy.

The pair are in dispute with HM Revenue & Customs. Molly coddled, cosseted and hugely over privileged, you might not have much sympathy for celebrities over their tax affairs. Shouldn’t they pay their tax, after all they can afford it? The answer is yes, but only when it’s fair, and only when the law is clear. And that’s not the case here.

Here’s the issue on which Richard & Judy’s battle rests – agents fees, can they be set against tax or not? Some people can claim up to 17.5% of their earnings as agents’ fees and set them against their tax bill. These are actors (on stage and screen), singers, musicians and dancers. If you happen to be a TV presenter, author or footballer, however, you can’t. So Richard & Judy can’t set their agents’ fees against tax and the taxman wants his money back.

Only there’s an oddity in all of this. Take Richard & Judy out of the TV studio and place them in a theatre and there’s a very good chance they could claim agents fees entirely free of guilt because they could then describe themselves as ‘theatrical artists’.

The distinctions are clearly ludicrous. There seems no substantive difference between the cost of an agent to an actor, and the cost of one to a TV presenter.

More worrying is that it is these kinds of anomalous definitions that undermine the trust and confidence of the public in HMRC’s ability to judge and rule fairly on their tax affairs. Clearly if there was an area that called not just for simplification, but coherence, this is it.

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