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Bread AND roses

September 17, 2012

I’ve always thought the suffragists and the wobblies had it right about bread and roses:

Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses.

In other words, it’s not just the “bread and butter” financial issues that campaigning organisations need to think about but the “roses”, the things that could otherwise be put aside with the derisory label “pink and fluffy” – like equality issues, support for the arts, anything outside of the narrow horizon of simply keeping body and soul together.

So when we have a government that thinks we need to cap benefits to reduce taxes and frames its agenda in terms of an unprecedented financial crisis it’s good to see any consideration being given to the roses of, say, the television industry.

But I can’t get excited about the consultation into creative sector tax reliefs.    The consultation is into applying something like the tax scheme that works for film production to three other areas: animation, “high end” television drama, and video games.

In contrast, the government will give Arts Council England £360m this year,  around thirty per cent less than the £400m+ it has had for the last five or six years.  Against that, the amounts shown in the tax impact assessment (in millions) for the three categories of business covered by the consultation are relatively small:

Animation Television Video Games
2012-13 0 0
2013-14 -5 -10
2014-15 -10 -25
2015-16 -15 -25
2016-17 -15 -25

Considerably less, in fact,  (max of £15+£25m in one year) than the government has already taken from the Arts Council.

So why did I not respond to the consultation?  Not because the numbers are small – lots of the consultations we’ve looked at so far have been in the why the heck are you spending time and money asking about it if it makes no difference category.  Not because I don’t care about the subject – it would be hard for more than the three people involved to get truly passionate about, say, the taxation of unauthorised unit trusts or time apportionment reductions on life insurance policies.  I didn’t respond to this one because… well, because it’s OK.

I mean, the general principle of giving tax breaks to creative endeavour seems OK to me – whether or not you agree we have money to give to the arts, it seems sensible not to take too much from them, like not eating your seed corn.  Bread AND roses, right?

And I think they’re asking the right people – even though the amounts involved are ludicrously small in context, there are three working parties of industry representatives working with the Treasury and HMRC.  And they seem to be asking them the right questions: working on things like coming up with a workable definition of a distinctively British television programme, or how to avoid giving tax breaks for video games which are pornographic, or how do you define “animation”.

So, just this once, I’ll pass, thanks.  Keep calm and carry on!

One comment

  1. […] An example of asking the right questions of the right people: consultation on creative sector tax reliefs. […]



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