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North West theatres targeted in tax relief consultation - but will The Dukes really benefit?

John Freeman
Lancaster's Dukes theatre and other theatres in the North West are being encouraged to have their say on plans to introduce tax relief for the industry, announced in last week’s Budget.

A consultation has now been launched on the proposals, with the new tax reductions coming into effect on 1st September 2014, which will enable cultural organisations to claim tax relief on productions of theatre, ballet, dance and opera, musicals and other live performance.

The new theatre tax relief will support theatres across the UK, as well as touring productions. It will offer a relief rate of 25 per cent for qualifying touring productions and 20 percent for other qualifying productions.

“The performing arts make a significant contribution to the UK economy and our quality of life – and the theatre tax relief is important recognition of that," notes Sarah Maxfield, Northern Area Director at the Arts Council.

“The scheme will help to create an environment where creative risks can be taken, and where work can be more easily produced and toured. As such, it is vital that it supports the theatre sector across the entire country and benefits arts organisations that receive public investment.

“During this consultation period, we will work closely with the government and performing arts organisations to ensure that the scheme helps diversify funding, thereby offering further support for the sector.”

While the proposal has been welcomed, The Stage it might not be as much of a boon to publicly-funded theatres and organisations as some are suggesting. Columnist Simon Tait notes that while the private sector will be easily able to take advantage of the scheme because their finances are so much simpler, "subsidised theatres with their reliance on grants from local authorities, arts councils, sponsors, charitable trusts and foundations, and their status as charities, will find it much more complicated and will need every scintilla of ACE clarification through the whole process".

But the government is bullish that the offered relief is good news, even though most regional theatres are charities relying on subsidy to balance the books and do not make profit and pay corporation tax from which they could claim the ‘relief’ on offer.

“The UK has some of the most innovative and exciting theatre companies in the world and is known for its ground breaking productions," commented Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. "I want to make sure the industry continues to thrive.

“I recognise the cultural and economic value the theatre sector brings to the UK economy," he added. "That’s why I am introducing a theatre tax relief which will support our UK theatres up and down the country.”

The hope is that the theatre tax relief will encourage and support the sector to continue to develop across the UK with an emphasis on touring productions which face a higher risk.

This forms part of the government’s commitment to supporting the creative industries, highlighted in its Plan for Growth, as having the potential to drive significant growth in the UK.

• The consultation will remain open until 8th May and more details are available at