Monday, November 21, 2011

Titillating tax story of the week - was stripper employed or self-employed?

This true story concerns a young lady (29) who originally trained for accountancy but then chose a more adventurous life. She worked as a stripper and lap dancer, allegedly earning upto £200k pa at Peter Stringfellow's London club.

Ms Quashie has been trying to prove that the self-employment contract that she signed when she began work was a sham. She is claiming that she was unfairly dismissed by the club even though she was ostensibly self-employed when she worked there. The corollary to this claim is that the 'employer' was avoiding employment taxes and payroll taxes on the sums paid to Ms Quashie.

Although Ms Quashie lost her original claim, an Employment Appeal Tribunal has awarded her the right to appeal that decision.

It seems that the nature of the relationship involved a number of factors suggesting that she was employed rather than self-employed. According to Ms Quashie, these included:
  • she was rostered to work for Stringfellows and there was an obligation on the club's part to allow her to work on set dates and pay her accordingly;

  • she was required to give free lap dances whenever a certain song was played;

  • the club did not allow her to work anywhere else;

  • the mutual obligations prove she was a Stringfellows employee.
This report provides further details and notes that, unsurprisingly, Stringfellows denies her claims , apparently stating that that Ms Quashie signed a contract saying she was self-employed, so cannot go to a tribunal for a job she never had.

As is well known however employers cannot evade their obligations simply by requiring employees to agree that they are self-employed. The dividing line, for tax purposes, between employed vs self-employed can be quite fine. Stringfellows is likely to win the case if they took top advice as to the wording of their contracts AND the facts support the terms thereof. In practice many 'employers' of self-employed workers fail on one or both of these tests. I would expect HMRC to take an interest in this case - for various reasons! ;-)

Anyway, given the nature of Ms Quashie's activities, this story has to receive my inaugural award for titillating tax story of the week.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder whether HMRC send Inspectors "under cover" to Stringfellows to find out first hand how the business operates and whether the dancers declare all their tips.