For foreign filmmakers coming to shoot in Blighty, the U.K. tax credit works like a dream.
British producers quibble that it discourages them from making international projects. But if you are a Hollywood studio making a Johnny Depp movie at Pinewood or a U.S. indie lensing a gangster pic in London’s East End, it’s money in the bank.
In place of the mind-bending complexity of old is a transparent new system of rebates that pays out promptly, so long as your film passes the British culture test or qualifies under an official co-production treaty.
Even though the rebate is only paid once a film is complete, the U.K. Film Council will apply the culture test in advance, so that companies can know whether their project will be eligible.
The test is based on points for using British material, subject matter, talent, facilities and locations. In marginal cases, the UKFC has some discretion to award marks for projects perceived as making a “cultural contribution” to Blighty, even if they don’t quite tick all the right boxes.
In truth, if you shoot in the U.K., it’s a hard test to fail — though in the case of big international projects such as “Prince of Persia,” some maneuvering on the amount of post-production done in London was necessary.
For budgets under £20 million ($37 million), the rebate is 25% of qualifying expenditure. For bigger-budget movies, it’s 20%.
Qualifying spend is defined as all direct production costs within the U.K., up to 80% of the budget. Above-the-line salaries are included, regardless of the nationality of the talent. So Russell Crowe’s fee in Ridley Scott’s “Nottingham” will be eligible.
Because the rebate is paid on completion, indie producers typically need to take out a bridging loan to cover the gap in their budgets, which generally nets them only around 80% of the value. The good news, however, is that HM Revenue and Customs pays out within a month of receiving an application.