Film and television tax relief plunged to €33m in 2018

C&AG report shows sharp drop in approved support for film and TV industry

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets actor Ruth Negga at a Screen Ireland event in Los Angeles last week. The Irish film industry depends upon the section 481 tax credit, but approved relief fell last year.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets actor Ruth Negga at a Screen Ireland event in Los Angeles last week. The Irish film industry depends upon the section 481 tax credit, but approved relief fell last year.

 

Tax relief approved under the section 481 film and television scheme dropped by two-thirds to €33 million last year, according to figures contained in the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) report on the accounts of the public services.

The section 481 tax credit, the operation of which has since been revised, saw some €273 million in relief granted to 337 film and television projects in the period 2015 to 2018.

After relief of €52 million in 2015, the scheme swelled to €90 million in 2016 and €98 million in 2017 before falling sharply last year, as leading producers complained of delays of up to two years in receiving the credit.

The Government extended the tax credit until 2024 in last year’s budget, but for much of 2018 it was due to expire at the end of 2020. The industry argued that this sunset clause was deterring some international companies from basing productions in the State.

Producers have this year been left frustrated by a delay in the publication of Revenue guidelines on the operation of new self-assessment rules.

The average claim under the scheme from 2015 to 2018 was €810,000 per project, the C&AG report shows.

Improve data

The C&AG has now recommended to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht that “adequate arrangements” should be put in place to monitor employment on qualifying projects. The department has agreed to do so, signalling that it is examining ways to improve data on direct employment in the screen industry.

The C&AG’s analysis of Revenue data shows that for a sample of 15 projects that received the relief in the 2015-2018 period, the majority of proposed employees said to be tax-resident in the State were intended to be hired as extras. Extras work much fewer days on a project than those in other roles.

The C&AG states that it is “unclear” how a production company would be able to establish the tax residency of proposed employees, information required as part of the application form.