Actors union Equity has begun work on a detailed response to HMRC’s public consultation on the national insurance status of actors, singers and musicians.

The union, which represents around 36,000 UK actors and industry is concerned proposed changes to the NIC categorisation of actors will affect their ability to claim benefits and has thus asked its members to sign a letter of protest to chancellor George Osborne.

On May 15, HM Revenue & Customs launched its public consultation on the national insurance status of ‘entertainers’, including actors, singers and musicians or similar performers.

HMRC is recommending that entertainers should no longer be categorised as ‘employed earners’ with a liability to pay Class 1 National Insurance Contributions. It claims Equity members will not lose out under the incoming Universal Credit system and that the new categorization will simplify the current model, which it says has a “negative impact” on the entertainment industry. 

Actors have long been treated as self-employed for tax purposes but simultaneously ‘employed’ for National Insurance Contributions (NIC) as they are likely to have periods out of work between acting jobs and thereby have qualified for benefits such as jobseekers’ allowance, which is not generally available to the self-employed.

UK producers could potentially reap financial benefit from the change which could scrap a 13.8% Employers National Insurance liability they currently pay on top of actors’ wages.

The HMRC claims that after consulting with industry some foreign film and television producers are already rejecting the UK as a production location because of the 13.8% liability and that a growing number of UK producers are moving offshore as a result of it.

Since 2009 ITV has been engaged in a legal dispute with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) over whether the commercial broadcaster should pay Employers’ National Insurance contributions (NICs) for key acting talent. “Key talent” has traditionally been excluded from the national insurance protocol.

The closing date for public consultation comments is 6 August 2013.