Tax break could come to a halt

Incentive helped Dutch film industry

AMSTERDAM — Leading parties in the Dutch parliament are backing an extension of the highly publicized Dutch tax incentive scheme which is set to expire at the end of this year.

Dutch filmmakers had feared that the tax break, credited with boosting the number of Dutch films as well as their performance at the box office, might be in its death throes. Since its launch in 1999, the scheme has run into hurdle after hurdle, ranging from government foot dragging to opposition by tax inspectors to regulatory stumbling blocks.

In recent weeks, warnings the government would cut its cultural budgets renewed fears the tax scheme would not be extended.

While the newly formed cabinet is less than enthusiastic, members of parliament had privately given some assurances that they would support extending the measure.

In the May 26 debate, however, leaders from three major coalition parties went on record for the first time, saying their members would support the extension. They joined two other parties that had also said they would throw their weight behind it.

“It’s a long way from getting an extension and there are quite a few steps to be taken, but it does offer some hope,” notes Gamila Ylstra, managing director of Fine, a government-initiated go-between for producers and investors seeking venture capital for film projects.

Ylstra pointed out that the government and parliament must come to a compromise on the issue by early September when the budget must be agreed.

The tax scheme, which allows private individuals a tax break if they invest in a film, costs the government e23 million ($26.6 million) annually.

Despite being plagued by bureaucratic delays and government shilly-shallying since it launched, in its heyday in late 1999 and 2000, the tax break scheme backed 45 productions including Jeroen Krabbe’s “Discovery of Heaven,” Johan Nijenhuis’ “Full Moon Party” and Pieter Kramer’s “Yes Sister, No Sister.”

By 2002, more footdragging had once again slowed production down to a trickle.

Filmers in the meantime are warning if the tax break expires, it could set Holland’s film industry back years.

“It will certainly be extremely difficult to make crowd pleasers in the next few years,” says producer-director Nijenhuis, whose films have helped locally made films take 10% of the box office in Holland in 2001 and 2002