Ontario extends tax break for pic prod’n

Incentives fall short of other provinces

TORONTO — Domestic producers got an C$8 million ($5.8 million) break from the Ontario government in its provincial budget, released Tuesday.

Finance minister Greg Sorbara sweetened the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit by extending the length of time a production is qualified to collect the 20% labor tax credit and eliminating what in the biz is known as “the grind,” which meant that funding from government bodies such as the Canadian Television Fund was not eligible for the labor tax credit.

In addition, a person other than the production company can hold an interest in a production, provided that investor is not associated with a tax shelter.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Laszlo Barna, Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. chair. “After SARS, a high dollar exchange rate and tax incentives from other provinces, Ontario needs to stay ahead of the game to stay competitive. This will definitely help, but we need to continue to fight for an increase in the tax credit rate.”

The incentives fall short of the org’s call to raise the tax credit rate to match that of other provinces, such as British Columbia and Manitoba. But pundits are relieved that Sorbara hasn’t axed the credit as he hinted he would do earlier this year. He backpedaled after an industry outcry.

The change will not affect foreign location shooting, which in 2003 dropped 36% due to SARS and a rising Canadian buck.