Investing in creativity: tax incentives for live theatre

‘More interesting, bigger, bolder, riskier.’

That’s how Society of London Theatre (SOLT) President, Eleanor Lloyd, described the impact of the decision to lock in a higher rate of Theatre Tax Relief (TTR) for UK theatre productions.

The UK’s TTR scheme commenced in 2014 to provide support for the creation of theatrical productions by allowing tax deductions for certain production costs. It is available to commercial and not for profit organisations.

A higher rate of TTR was introduced in 2021 to help the sector recover from the pandemic. The UK Government has now locked in the TTR rates at 40 and 45 per cent instead of tapering back to pre-COVID levels.

SOLT analysis of the higher rates of assistance found that at least £163 million (A$313 million) was invested into theatrical productions as a result of £38 million of Theatre Tax Relief – a return of over 4 to 1 for the public investment.

LPA has called for the introduction of similar incentives to stimulate investment in Australian live theatre, creating more jobs for theatre works and bringing more performances to Australian stages.

Australian theatre producers compete internationally for investment to capitalise their productions, with 80 per cent coming from offshore investors. Australia is a much less attractive destination than the UK or US for investment under current policy.

Earlier analysis by LPA found a Live Theatre Tax Offset of between 25 and 40 per cent would be cost neutral when set against the additional economic activity generated by the tax incentive. It also found an Offset scheme could increase the number of new productions in Australia by up to 73 per cent, generating 4,650 jobs and adding $540 million in industry value.

The Federal Government already provides $123 million a year of tax offsets for the screen and digital games industries, which includes international productions made in Australia.

Live theatre in Australia, including musical and dramatic theatre, opera, ballet, dance and children’s and family entertainment, contributed around one third of ticketed attendance and revenue for live performance in 2022, and is the largest category after contemporary music.

LPA Chief Executive Evelyn Richardson said: ‘The Albanese Government set out a bold vision for Australian culture and creativity in its national cultural policy. It needs to be supported by policy settings and investment incentives which will bring this vision to reality.’

More info:

  1. Read LPA’s proposal for a Live Theatre Tax Offset
  2. Listen to Eleanor Lloyd from SOLT on the BBC’s ‘Front Row’ program
  3. ‘Why this producer of Aussie musicals make his sets in London’ – AFR, 15 March 2024.

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