THE BBC has been making hardship payments to presenters left facing large tax bills after they said they were forced by the corporation to form companies so they could be treated as freelancers, MPs have been told.

Deputy director general Anne Bulford told the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) they had given loans and advances to a number of individuals with temporary financial difficulties.

"We are talking about comparatively modest sums of money in the overall scheme of things but important to the individuals. We are talking about 15 individuals," she said.

"We think it is the right thing to do."

The disclosure came after another Commons committee was told last month how presenters were pushed by the BBC into setting up personal service companies, depriving them of employment rights such as holiday and sick pay and pension contributions.

They were subsequently left with large bills for unpaid taxes after the arrangements fell foul of HM Revenue and Customs.

BBC Director General Lord Hall said the problems - affecting mainly radio and news presenters - were in part the consequence of a series of changes by HMRC as to the way such staff should be treated for tax purposes.

"HMRC have said the test which they were applying and asking us to apply is not fit for purpose so we need to have yet another test," he told the committee.

"This has caused a good deal of confusion for individuals. It has caused a great deal of anger among the people who are our frontline presenters, mainly in radio and in news.

"In some cases it has caused some hardship. If there are cases of hardship we have made it clear we want to deal with those as a priority. My sympathies are to the people who are on the raw end of this."

Ms Bulford did not rule out the prospect that the BBC would end up paying the back taxes of some of the staff concerned.

"I can't conclude on that until we start to work through the individual cases," she said.