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Theatre world breathes sigh of relief after Chancellor statement

The news concerned Theatre Tax Relief 

Shaftesbury Avenue
(© Pedro Szekely from Los Angeles, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

After months of concern and campaigning, the UK theatre industry found out today whether the UK Government's proposed decision to cut theatre tax relief would go ahead. 

As things stand, Theatre Tax Relief (TTR) allows stage businesses and organisations to pay less for their operations – instrumental during periods of uncertainity and financial turbluence.

The tax relief level was raised in 2021 to 45 per cent for non-touring productions (50 per cent for touring shows) to help theatre companies weather the Covid storm. The plan was that, from April 2023, the level would be tapered down to 30 per cent (35 per cent for touring) from April and pre-pandemic levels of 20 per cent (25 per cent for touring) from 2024.  

However, chancellor Jeremy Hunt reversed the previous decision today, following ardant work from campaign groups. Support for cultural sector, tax relief for theatres, orchestras, and museums and galleries will now stay at rates of 45 per cent (50 per cent for touring) for a further two years until 2025.

Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre's heads Hannah Essex and Claire Walker (who were vocally opposed to the reduction in relief) said: “We are delighted that the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer  have recognised the value and potential of the Theatre Sector in today’s budget by maintaining the higher rate of theatre tax relief until 2025.

“Maintaining the higher rate means that producers can provide stronger incentives to attract new and greater investment, move forward with confidence on creating exciting productions and provide more jobs for the UK’s hugely talented freelancers, staff and performers in the Creative Industries.”

“The new productions unlocked by the higher rate will drive economic growth across the country: for every £1 spent on a theatre ticket, audiences spend £1.40 around the theatre in bars, restaurants and on their transport and accommodation, providing a boost of £1.94bn a year to local economies.

“As the Chancellor plans to outline his long-term vision for the Creative Industries as a key growth sector later in the year, maintaining this higher rate of relief is a welcome first step to deliver growth in the creative economy, and the theatre industry looks forward to increased collaboration with HM Treasury over the next few months as the vision is developed.”

The CEOS of Trafalgar Entertainment (one of the most significant producers of touring and London shows) Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire said: "We unequivocally welcome today’s budget announcement by Jeremy Hunt and Lucy Frazer, to maintain the higher rate of Theatre Tax Relief. This decision recognises the significance and cultural impact of the theatre industry in our society, and the importance of the sector’s valuable contributions to the wider economy.

"The higher rates of Theatre Tax Relief will act as a stimulus for future investment, job growth, and economic prosperity, both locally and nationally. It will also provide a major boost to touring productions with increased producer confidence and greater choice for audiences. 

"The news will be a welcome relief for the arts, tourism and hospitality sectors which have all suffered immeasurable blows in recent years as a result of the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and soaring energy prices. But most of all, it’s a huge win for the millions of people across the UK who access and enjoy cultural activities every week in their towns and cities." 

The National Theatre's executive director Kate Varah added: "We are thrilled that the Government has made the vital decision to maintain the higher rate of Theatre Tax Relief.

"In a period where the sector is navigating ongoing financial headwinds, it means the National Theatre and our colleagues in theatres across the UK can continue to make world-class productions of real ambition that delight audiences, provide jobs, stimulate economic growth and cement the UK as a global leader in culture." 

Paul W Fleming, general secretary of Equity, commented on today’s Budget saying: “It is small comfort that the government has continued its commitment to using theatre tax relief to plug the gaps created by austerity. However even this is only as a result of intense lobbying from Equity and the industry.”

“Because while the Chancellor talks about a budget for growth, the reality is his government has presided over a precipitous decline in arts funding, culminating in the closure of Oldham Coliseum, and potential job losses at the English National Opera. We need a total reset of arts policy, based on investment and good jobs – decent culture for all, not constant culture war.”