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Government Zooms in on Film Relief


The Section 481 tax relief, more commonly known as "film relief", is one of Ireland's longest running sector-specific tax reliefs and has been in place under various formats since 1984. Created to help promote Ireland as a location for film production, the relief enables production companies to raise finance in Ireland and incentivises individual taxpayers to invest by offering an attractive return on a relatively low risk investment. The relief has become steadily more and more popular in recent years as production companies and taxpayers alike begin to realise and appreciate the attractiveness of the relief. In 2005, for example, just 19 projects availed of the Section 481 relief compared with 57 in 2011. There is no doubt that the film industry exists in a competitive international environment. Ireland competes with other countries and locations for productions and although other countries may also support their film industry by way of tax reliefs we must always look objectively at the cost versus benefit of any tax relief that is legislated for. The estimated amount of tax foregone by the exchequer in respect of film relief in the 2011 tax year was €49 million. According to the Revenue Commissioners the 57 projects that were approved for Section 481 funding in 2011 had an eligible Irish spend of €114 million and supported employment for a crew, cast and extras of over 15,000 individuals. In a welcome move, Finance Act 2011 provided for an extension of film relief to the end of 2015, however, given the current pressures on the exchequer the Government has deemed it necessary to carry out a formal consultation on the economic merits of continuing the relief after 2015. Among the questions that will be asked in regard to the relief are: a) Is the exchequer’s support to the film and TV sector in Ireland through Section 481 tax relief an efficient use of scarce resources? b) Is the current scheme maximising the potential economic benefits to Ireland in terms of stimulating activity in the film and TV sector? c) Does the scheme provide value for money to the economy overall? There are arguments aplenty for and against each of the questions. However, something which supports a significant number of jobs and boosts the tourism sector, can only be a good thing in our eyes. Whether or not it will last beyond 2015, however, remains to be seen.