HBO's 'Pacific' to reap tax benefits

SYDNEY — Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ HBO limited series “The Pacific” looks to be the first foreign shoot to take advantage of Australia’s new tax breaks.

The Oz government has boosted to 15% its incentive for foreign productions lensing Down Under, effective for all expenditure after July 1. The incentive, previously called the Refundable Film Tax Offset, will now be known as a Location Rebate.

Rebate has been extended to cover productions undertaking more than A$5 million ($4 million) in post-production, digital and visual effects in Australia, even if no shooting takes place there.

However, when the total spend is less than $41 million, physical productions will still need to spend more than $12 million and at least 70% of their budget in Oz to be eligible for the incentive.

Tax fund-raising mechanism 10B, traditionally tapped by foreign producers, will be closed, but the government has not indicated how or when this will occur.

Changes were announced in Tuesday’s federal budget, the result of a yearlong lobby process after the government announced, in last year’s budget, a review of all incentives and film bureaucracies.

Mark Woods, topper of international production lobby agency Ausfilm, expressed particular pleasure in the government’s rebate for effects work — the outcome of concerted lobbying by his agency and effects houses Rising Sun and Animal Logic.

Australia “can now better compete with Canada and the United Kingdom, particularly,” Woods told Daily Variety.

For Aussie producers, the government introduced a Producer Rebate that permits a 40% refund on film expenditure, 20% on television productions beginning July 1. It expects the rebate will boost investor interest in the industry and enable producers to retain equity in their productions.

The Producer Rebate will be administered by a new agency, the Australian Screen Authority, to be formed in 2008 by a merger of coin agency the Film Finance Corporation, culture org the Australian Film Commission and documaker Film Australia.

Low-budget pics from emerging filmmakers will continue to be partly funded by the federal agency, but bigger budget, so-called commercial films will be dependent on market support in the future.

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