The taxes are the result of a 1998 law intended to allow actors to claim unemployment benefits between jobs. The change in the law, which raised organizations' contributions on behalf of freelancers, also affected many orchestras made up of freelance musicians and those that employ freelance conductors and soloists. The orchestras say they were not made aware that the change applied to musicians as well as actors.
The London Symphony Orchestra's back payments total about Ô£8 million; the Philharmonia Orchestra would owe an addition Ô£500,000 per year.
Several orchestras would go bankrupt if forced to pay the full amounts owed. A study of five orchestras—the LSO, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the ensembles of the English Touring Opera and the Welsh National Opera—showed that four of them would go into liquidation if they paid the owed amounts in full.
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, however, would not demand payment that would cause the organizations to go under, but collect on an "ability to pay" basis.
According to the Guardian, orchestras are currently meeting with HMRC, Arts Council England, and the relevant government departments in order to find a solution to the crisis.