Is MPs Expenses Watchdog Chief Paying Enough Tax?- Daily Mail Newspaper- Exclusive News Story- ***November 2012***

We were contacted anonymously by someone tipping us off that there were concerns that the head of the watchdog monitoring MPs expenses has an 'off-payroll' deal.

Having done some reserach, we passed the suspisicions on to the Daily Mail newspaper who ran an exclusive.

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Is MPs' expenses watchdog paying her fair share of tax? Acting head of standards body gets cash through private company.

The head of the watchdog monitoring MPs' expenses is being paid up to 169,000 a year in an 'off-payroll' deal allowing her to reap huge tax benefits, it can be revealed.

Paula Higson, acting chief executive of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), earns the equivalent of up to 169,000 a year not through a normal salary, but through her private limited company.

Ipsa, set up in 2009 in the wake of the MPs' parliamentary expenses scandal, states that its main duty is 'to serve the interests of the public'.

However, it pays Mrs Higson in a deal allowing her to save thousands of pounds in national insurance and income tax while Ipsa cuts its own national insurance payouts.

Earlier this year Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander condemned similar 'off-payroll' arrangements saying they aided 'tax avoidance'.

Mrs Higson, who runs a private consultancy business, declined an opportunity to outline her tax payments.

Ipsa also refused to give more details even though its own website details staff expenses as small as a a 'fruit basket' worth 20.

Mrs Higson is already familiar with 'off-payroll' deals.

After leaving her last salaried job, earning 110,000 a year as chief operating officer at NHS Direct, she switched to working on contract at the same employer for 132,000 a year.

The arrangement would have slashed her own national insurance and income tax liability.

Miss Higson, who lives in a 1million house in Twickenham, west London, also appears to be continuing to be available for other work while being paid to monitor MPs' expenses, with her website fully operational.

Last night angry MPs spoke out over the arrangement.

Tory MP Rob Wilson, who campaigns against off-payroll deals in the public sector, said: 'It is scandalous if an organisation charged with upholding the integrity of the MPs' expenses system is itself paying people involved in tax avoidance.'

Former Labour minister Tom Harris said: 'It is shocking if Ipsa is paying anyone a penny towards any form of tax avoidance.'

Mrs Higson joined Ipsa in July this year after Andrew McDonald, its chief executive who is paid 110,000 a year through a normal salary arrangement required cancer treatment.

She is paid 650 a day through her private limited company for 50 days' work over four months the equivalent of up to 169,000 a year.

Mrs Higson said in a statement: 'In the two years I've been running a small business, I have paid the taxes I should.

'I have not carried out any proactive marketing while I've been doing work for Ipsa. For a 50-day contract, I am not going to close my website.'

An Ipsa spokesman said: 'Mrs Higson is being paid as a contractor, not an employee, to provide 50 days of cover.

'The appointment complies with the Treasury's guidelines for interim staff.'

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