There is often confusion over this issue and it comes up a lot, so here are the key points.
If you use your car for business and have to claim for some reason, and you don’t have business cover in place (assuming the insurers find out you were driving on business) they may not pay out your claim. If you think you may need to drive for work at some point (recces, going to location, picking up props or equipment etc) then add some business miles to your policy. It’s quite cheap and it means that you are covered should anything happen.
Who or what you are driving and why is really not your concern. If the production company wants to put their talent in your car and rely on your cover that’s their problem, not yours. It isn’t up to you to insure the talent or the equipment or anything else. The production insurance held by the company will respond if the talent has an accident and is unable to continue. but with “business use cover” your liabilities will be insured and you need not worry.
Some people seem to assume you need to take on the responsibilities of the company and insure for having talent in your car etc. You don’t, although the insurance company may take the view that your job makes that a possibility and will take that into account in your premium calculation. All you need to do is protect yourself – just ask for ‘occasional business use’.
A word of caution though. IF an accident is your fault and IF you injure someone or damage equipment and IF you are NOT covered you could be in serious trouble – because the company may decide to claim against you for negligence in order to limit their losses. Without cover to protect you that might well be a major financial disaster for you. So get yourself covered.
The BBC is part of who we are. It is our spotlight on the world and the way the world knows about us. In fact, every week 97% of UK adults tune in to the BBC online, on TV or on their radio, and more than 300 million people around the world join them. Isn’t that astonishing? And do you know the best thing? The BBC is independent and impartial, so there’s nobody looking to pocket a penny or two or push their own agenda.
The Great BBC Campaign was started by two independent television producers – Charlie Parsons and Lord Waheed Alli who think that the BBC is the best of what it is to be British, and that once it’s destroyed, it can never be rebuilt.
Don’t let the #GreatBBC become a memory, fight for it by signing up to the campaign today.
A tax adviser and accountant to the media industry has been jailed for five years for evading more than £6 million in tax.
Denis Christopher Carter Lunn ran a Sussex-based accountancy firm, Christopher Lunn & Co, whose 7,000-plus clients included many from the media and entertainment worlds.
The firm was investigated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and in 2010 the premises in Crowborough were searched and Lunn was arrested. HMRC uncovered evidence of a range of serious offences, which included the inflating of accountancy fees and the fraudulent use of trading losses – all intended to help Lunn and his clients evade paying their fair share of tax.
After five years of detailed investigation, Lunn was convicted at Southwark Crown Court in December 2015, where a jury found him guilty of four counts of Cheating the Public Revenue.
Jennie Granger, Director General, Enforcement and Compliance, HMRC said:
“Lunn believed he could make up fraudulent claims to benefit both himself and his clients. Hard work from HMRC officers across the department proved him wrong. This long-running investigation has already recovered £20m as Lunn’s former clients settle their tax liabilities, with more to come.
“I hope this result serves as a reminder to those who try to cheat the public purse – particularly those in the tax profession – that no one is above the law and that HMRC will relentlessly pursue tax evaders to bring them before the courts.”
HMRC has now started confiscation proceedings to strip Lunn of any financial gain he made as a result of his criminal activity.
As Lunn’s clients were unaware of his actions, they have been offered a chance to put things right for themselves by paying any tax and interest due. Any client who has not yet come forward pending the outcome of the trial is encouraged to speak to HMRC to bring their affairs up to date as many of his clients have already done. Civil investigations into Lunn’s clients have so far recovered more than £20m, with a projected £40m expected when all clients have settled.
Lunn’s son, Christopher Jonathan Lunn (Jon), who also worked at the firm, was convicted in December 2014 on six counts under the Fraud Act, after he had sent false invoices to HMRC to try to cover up the fraud in the practice.
Previous story: Christopher Lunn – Guilty
We have just heard that the jury have returned a verdict of guilty against Christopher Lunn. Here is the press release from HMRC, which also acknowledges that his clients were not aware of any wrongdoing.
So if you paid a fine you should consider applying to have this returned.
Lunn will be sentenced on 6 January 2016
There has been a lively debate in several forums about I visas and whether they are transferable to new, unrelated projects. It is really hard to find a definitive answer on the internet, and the US embassy isn’t the most approachable institution either. It is very common for recruiters to specify a “valid I visa” when advertising, so we wanted to see if we could pin it down.
So we’ve done some independent research, and we found a friendly US immigration specialist attorney who was prepared to set out the basics.
This is what I understood:
1. An I visa is issued to a bona fide member of the foreign media for the purposes of covering “informational or educational” stories in the US. The US authorities have tightened up the meaning of “informational or educational” considerably in the last ten years or so, and while it does include covering sports, news events and documentaries, it specifically excludes reality programmes, factual entertainment or formatted documentaries. The crucial factor seems to be that these are heavily produced and are not covering events which would be happening anyway and the enterprise is not “journalistic”. It definitely excludes LE and scripted programmes, and it also explicitly excludes programme wholly or mainly funded by US producers, broadcasters or distributors.
2. An I visa is issued after an interview with an immigration officer at the Embassy, where the application must be supported with documents such as a treatment, the applicant’s CV and credentials, and a contract with the employer. In theory the I visa is only valid for entry to the US if the holder is working on the same programme, or at least the same employer.
3. So what happens when you start a new project? Best practice is that the I visa holder lets the embassy know that you are working on something new and for a different employer. You will probably need to supply documentation outlining the new project, but – assuming that the new project complies with the narrow definitions of “informational and educational” – the I visa will be valid. This is best practice.
I got the impression that this step isn’t always carried out, and this is where it all becomes quite speculative. No lawyer will recommend not sticking to the absolute letter of the law, but I got the impression that as long as the new project is compliant that no-one is likely to get too upset. Obviously the best way to check that it is compliant is to contact the embassy…
Where is really dangerous is where the project is not compliant and where the embassy would turn down an application for a new I visa. If you’re picked up in the US working on such a project you would be working illegally and you run the risk of being deported and probably never working in or even visiting the US again.
It is worth remembering that the risk is borne entirely by the freelancer in this scenario. If you’re caught working illegally the employer will suffer no inconvenience beyond having to find someone else. You will almost certainly suffer lifelong and career-damaging effects.
Now I’m not a lawyer, and I may have got some details wrong. This is not intended to be a guide to follow: it’s meant to make you ask questions so that you’re not placed in a really difficult position.
Here are some real experiences from freelancers
As a producer who has held an i-VISA I can suggest that the rules, though previously more ambiguous over the definitions, are now pretty clear in that the purpose of an i-VISA is for public interest/broadcast/not for profit journalism work and as such should not be applied for in relation to any kind of entertainment programming, including factual, reality scripted for profit etc.
The point of an i-VISA is to separate commercial interest from that of public (press) interest. Apply a little common sense with regard to your application and your project and you are unlikely to fall foul.
What Richard explains is absolutely true however, and those trying to ‘transfer’ the i-Visa to a new project run a serious risk of being barred entry.
It’s the U.S. Security is a big issue there. They love rules and the low grade officials love to use their power. Follow the rules and you’re fine, if in doubt expect them to be unforgiving. Best of all, don’t think you can talk your way through. I once had my maximum $5000 in cash (at the time) counted out to the dollar before allowing me entry.
I applied for an I-visa for a programme I was making- not realising that they had tightened the restrictions. After my IV at the embassy, it was deemed the programme not suitable for an I-visa and was denied. Fast forward to me going on holiday to the US and applying for my ESTA and ticking all boxes as “no”- ESTA approved, went on my merry way. Day before holiday I checked ESTA- TRAVEL TO US DENIED. To cut a long story short, I was accused go fraudulent activity by not claiming that I had previously been denied a visa to the US (I thought it was the wrong visa and application cancelled- wrong) I couldn’t travel, lost my holiday and all cost. I fought with the embassy and eventually reapplied and had it approved, but for the rest of my life if I want to travel to the US I will have to go through a huge rigmarole. It’s no joke- they DO NOT take it lightly and they DO NOT forget. And don’t get me started on companies telling you you’ll be ok if you travel on an ESTA. If they check your phone and find even a semblance of doubt you’ll be deported and banned for 10 years as standard. It’s not worth it.
Great discussion, and pretty spot on. The thing to remember with an iVisa is that it’s a foreign media visa, which means you can’t get paid by a US company. Your iVisa is also attached to the company who petitioned, you can change the owner, but the onus is on the individual to do so. Production Companies generally don’t know the rules, or they don’t care as the onus is not on them if things go wrong.
But my advice, speak to a Lawyer and don’t even consider filming here without the right visa. I know people who are banned from the country for doing so, and it really has harmed their careers.
I had an ivisa revoked (after I’d already completed the job and was back home) for being unsuitably issued for the type of programme I was working on. It was ‘cancelled without prejudice’ which, when I investigated the term, essentially meant I should have no issues obtaining a new visa (working or tourist) in the future. Fast forward a few months and transiting through LA to another country on my honeymoon I get pulled into immigration, treated appallingly and am now ‘no longer welcome’ in the US. I spoke to a specialist immigration attorney who said I should be able to travel to the US in the future but only after applying for a new visa (working or Esta) which would inevitably be denied, thus giving me the opportunity to have an interview at the embassy and argue my case. Think I’ll just stay home!
It’s a minefield. We applied for Ivisas for a corporate project. We were filming a conference and commissioned by an American company. One of our crew got approved and the other one rejected. Of course they don’t have to tell you why they rejected you so the poor producer has to now declare that he was refused a visa if he goes to the USA.
I just got banned by them because the lady at the embassy knew the show I was working on and considered it not appropriate for an I visa. What do I get for this? Try no I visa and security questions that now make it prohibitive to apply again!
Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. I have lived in the US for many years and have noticed a real increase in UK TV job postings that state, ‘must have a current I Visa’. I was working on a shoot with the INS and had a long chat to one of the officers about I-Visas – your info is spot on. I think people’s confusion comes from the fact that I Visas are generally issued in one year increments and so the holder assumes they’re fine to use the visa on any production within that time period. Don’t risk it! Contact the US Embassy and be totally honest about the new project. I know of one director who was put on the next plane home when he was questioned about the project at US immigration – INS officers know the difference between documentaries and entertainment and they don’t look favourably on people who misuse the visa!
I don’t think you can stress how strongly America takes immigration compared to the UK. There is no 3 strikes system or anything like that, infringe the system once and you’ll be denied entry for business or pleasure.
… your info is spot on, I get interrogated on an O visa and I’m fully legal, it’s really not worth taking the risk with an I visa as not being able to travel to America is a big deal, US immigration have very long memories and are very much a law to themselves. This info should be very strongly pointed at prod companies, there are so many jobs asking for valid I visas when it’s illegal
It drives me insane when production companies post ad’s saying “MUST have valid I-visa for this project”, when 90% of the time, it is the WRONG visa to be applying for. you can seriously jeopardize someones career and freedom of movement by being lazy and not conducting adequate research for your production.
I often wonder if somebody with a different visa, like an O or an E3 would even be considered by hiring management because they didn’t match the requirements listed in the advert? you might be turning away highly qualified candidates because of your own ignorance.
Visas to the united states ~should not~ be treated like a part of someones camera kit. if you are taking crew to the united states, please take the time to seek legal council before you make a decision that could impact somebody’s life.
I was stopped at US border control in Chicago and it was made extremely clear to me that even though I had a current I-Visa it did not cover my new project as it had been issued for a previous project. Please understand that as freelancers we carry all the risk when production companies ask for you to apply with a ‘current I-Visa’. Unless it is for the same project that you are now returning to, there is no such thing and you are risking your future career by potentially jeopardising your ability to work in the US for the foreseeable future. Now I will not work in the US unless the production company gets the correct visa properly sorted for me. No visa, I don’t do the job – simple.
It’s great to see this topic get some traction. For years, having a few years left on an I-Visa has been seen as commodity or even a qualification by production companies, and as many have pointed out – it’s the freelancer that runs the risk in every instance.
My I-Visa (which was valid for 5 years) expired last year, but in that time I worked about 5 or 6 times on it. It’s shocking to read some of the stories here and I’m thankful that I wasn’t deported or banned as a result, I certainly wasn’t aware it was so stringent. And PM’s have always told me ‘it’ll be fine’ to travel on my original visa.
… I know that acquiring the correct visa can be a real issue, and potentially costly and time-consuming – but given some of the evidence here, it’d be great if the admins could agree on an official stance on the topic going forward.
I’ve done a short job before where we all applied for (and were accepted for) O visas. But even on arrival, I was singled out by immigration for a lot of questioning. Even now when I travel on an ESTA for holidays, I sometimes get asked about my O visa from 7/8 years ago and for assurance that I’m not going over to work. If your programme doesn’t meet I visa requirements, it’s just not worth risking it.
The administrators of the Facebook group “People looking for TV work: Runners” recently mounted a survey of its members to find out how many were paying for access to industry jobs through subscription sites.
267 people responded to the survey – the first of its kind – with around half having tried a paid for jobs site. The overwhelming majority felt that they offer poor value for money and only one in six paying subscribers to job sites had achieved paid work through their membership. Of the people who had been successful, many had secured only small amounts of work, mostly amounting to less than a week.
Six sites featured in the results:
- My First Job in Film and My First Job in TV
More people have signed up to these two sites than any other (60% of all respondents who had joined a paid service) but for most people their experience has been almost entirely negative. Less than 1 in 10 subscribers had achieved any paid work at all, and the work they did find was mostly for only a few days.
Respondents overwhelmingly felt that that the two sites were poor value for money and only 5% of people who had paid would recommend joining the site to others.
- “My first job in film is ridiculously expensive and I have never had any response from any job applications on there. Apparently these posts are somewhere else and not exclusive as they always claim”.
- “Makes you doubt your job application skills when you don’t hear anything back after 20+ applications, but when you read that so many other people have had a similar experience, questions are raised of the website”.
- “My first job in film – only ever got in contact with me when I wanted to cancel my subscription. Very disappointing service”
- “Lots of apparent jobs advertised, but in all the ones I’ve put my applications in for (a fair few!), I’ve only ever heard back from one”
- “This service often takes jobs that are advertised for free elsewhere and claim they are exclusive to them, and require a paid subscription to apply. Very cheeky.”
- “They take advantage of young people who are desperate to get into the industry, especially film, and don’t know where to start looking for work. Every job is swamped with applicants, too many for a busy person to go through properly, so chances are your application isn’t going to be seen”
2. Shooting People
Of the 15 people who had paid to join Shooting People, only 1 had achieved any paid work through them. Many respondents did find value in their membership, over and above the access to paid or unpaid work:
- “I was with Shooting People for a year and got one paid but well below NMW feature however from the contacts made i have had most of my future employment”
- “I haven’t had any paid work from Shooting People but I found it very useful compared to other sites. Its good for freelancers who want to also do their own creative projects outside of freelancing, and gives you a chance to step up as a HOD”
- “I haven’t seen any established companies advertising on Shooting People for unpaid work; only students, pet projects etc”
- “The only website I would give positive feedback to is Shooting People, as it has a lot of resources and a strong platform for forums”
- “(I would recommend) Shooting People. Great for those first, unpaid jobs (or low paid if you’re lucky!) where you can learn set etiquette and how the roles on a film set interact”
- Film & TV Pro
There were 32 subscribers to Film & TV Pro, of whom 6 had picked up paid work. They were only recommended by 3 people.
- “Film and TV Pro (are poor value for money). I found the same job postings on free websites”.
Of the 12 subscribers to ProductionBase, 5 had found paid work. Some felt that it was not a good site for Runners however, and one had been a member for three years but had not secured a single job.
- “They now offer very few relevant job adverts”
- “I don’t get the sense ProductionBase is good for Runners. I follow them on Twitter but haven’t seen any relevant jobs”
- “ProductionBase had a new commissions section which was useful/interesting”
- “ProductionBase is extremely expensive for £15 a month”
- “ProductionBase did have excellent levels of service and a member of their staff did call me and help me with setting up my profile. However I still did not receive a single interview/second contact – I probably applied for 50+ positions”
5. The Calltime Company
The Calltime Company came out of the survey as by far the most valued site. It was overwhelmingly popular with no negative feedback and many favourable comments. Of the 12 people who had subscribed, 11 had got paid work through the site and almost all of them would recommend it to others. The company only accepts a limited number of members on its books at any one time, and only by interview.
- “The people that run it are brilliant, although I have only had some work, their post graduate pay as you go scheme is a great idea and more than fair”
- “A new entrant would be unlikely to get into the call time company, but they do offer graduate placements now and then which is good”
- “They get you work and don’t make false promises if they do put you on their books”
- “They actually get you jobs”
- “Unique to any other services and most certainly aren’t just after your money. They actively find you work when in need. You don’t therefore pay for nothing”
- “Run by people who know the industry and are known by the industry. Friendly, helpful and cater to you as an individual”
- “I’d describe Vicki and Tam as mentors rather than a recruitment company – they have always been on the end of a phone or email when I need advice and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them”
Many of the respondents to the survey also left general feedback about paid sites and life as a new starter in the industry.
- “I don’t understand how come such a small industry as Film and TV in the UK have so many paid job-sites. We want to have access to all the jobs ads but we cant possibly pay to ever site. So I wonder how many am I missing for not having the budget to subscribe. It seems pretty unfair to me, we have to pay to have access to jobs ads that might not even turn into a job”.
- “Finding a job is super difficult”
- “Finding work in media industries is hard enough without websites like these giving hope to new starters, taking their money and leaving them out of pocket, confused and disheartened”
- “It is really difficult to find entry level jobs, especially if you don’t live in London”
- “No one should pay to find work. It’s an abhorrent and unscrupulous practice”
- “I understand why people set these sites up but no other industry tries to make people pay to access job adverts and its especially difficult for people who are starting out that possibly can’t afford to pay to access information that a simple add to a facebook group would give them”
- “Trying to make money out of people’s ambitions by promising exclusive access to job adverts is poor practice”
- “It makes me angry as not everyone would be able to pay but everyone should have a chance at working in the industry they want”
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Some four years ago, rumours began circulating that an accountant specialising in media freelancers had been raided by HMRC. It was true: HMRC confiscated all the company’s files, whether paper or on computer, and started writing to all the company’s clients insisting that they had been underpaying tax for years and must now review their accounts.
Unbelievably, the case continues. A trial which ended four months ago resulted in a hung jury on the substantive points and HMRC is believed to be preparing to retry the case. We have not named the company because of the ongoing legal action.
The Watercooler became the only permanent source of advice and support for around 4000-5000 clients, and a community of wonderful accountants quickly grew up offering their services. BECTU stepped in and funded a public meeting which drew hundreds of frightened freelancers, and a few accountants and tax experts took up the challenge of representing them.
Most of the discussions and other information still exists on the Watercooler, but to avoid the risk of contempt of court the crucial material has been moved to secure areas and is accessible only to registered members. However we believe that most of the people who needed advice and support have already joined so they should have access to the areas they need.
We will be compiling an easy list of the accountants who posted their details on the old Cooler so that anyone hoping to find a media-savvy accountant can easily do so, so please do check back.