Oz calls on gov’t to fix pic funding

Report will include a review of Refundable Tax Offset

SYDNEY — The Aussie government’s announcement in last week’s federal budget that it would undertake a review of its financial support for the screen production industry wasn’t much of an announcement at all.

The government will include in the report a review of the 12.5% Refundable Film Tax Offset tapped by foreign producers, scheduled for September anyway.

According to Ausfilm topper Mark Woods, Ausfilm’s clients have been aware of the impending Offset review and it will not affect business, but foreign producers intending to raise capital through Section 10B of the taxation act are keenly awaiting the outcome of that inquiry.

In the 2004 election, the government promised to review 10BA and 10B tax incentive schemes; now, finally, results of that review will be rolled into the new one. A scheduled review of government documentary funding agency Film Australia also will be rolled into the bigger review, as will the scheduled review of Film Finance Corp funding.

The lack of news in the announcement did not deter the industry from unanimously declaring their support because there are plenty of problems that need fixing.

Private-sector funding for screen production is perilously low, government coin is capped, tax incentives 10B and 10BA are antiquated, and the industry’s various lobby groups all have different suggestions for “fixing” the biz.

“Future funding for the film industry will be considered in light of the outcomes from this review,” read a statement issued by arts minister Rod Kemp.

“The government has clearly heard the call for more effective tax incentives,” FFC topper Brian Rosen says.

Woods, who helps woo offshore productions through Ausfilm, says “The wider review presents a welcome opportunity to map the strategic direction of the Australian film industry.”

Development and screen culture org the Australian Film Commission welcomed the opportunity to inform the review, the form of which has not yet been decided. The Screen Producers Assn. declared a broad review will provide “priority, a sense of purpose and a timeline,” to the various investigations already scheduled.

Richard Harris from the Screen Directors Assn. says the review was well-timed to reap dividends from the next budget. That’s the upshot — the report will be presented in October — just in time for the next election.

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