Italian tax perks in works

Film boycott prompts Silvio's reversal

Bowing to pressure from Italy’s enraged film community, the Silvio Berlusconi-led government has reintroduced film production tax incentives and averted a threatened boycott of the Venice Film Festival by local producers.

The eagerly awaited tax credits, expected to pump some $250 million annually into the local industry, are back on a budget bill now going through parliament.

Berlusconi abruptly cut the incentives last month, prompting Italy’s main industry orgs to announce a boycott of the Venice, Rome and Turin film festivals in protest.

On Tuesday motion picture body Anica, general entertainment org Agis, and producers entity API called off the boycott and thanked the government’s culture czar Sandro Bondi for intervening “to avert huge damage to the economic policy of the country’s film industry.”

The incentives, introduced in late 2007 by the center-left government headed by Romano Prodi shortly before its fall, should provide tax credits amounting to 25% of a film’s budget, capped at e5 million ($7.7 million) per film. The incentive will extend to foreign productions lensing in Italy.

Local producers have sought the incentives for decades. The country’s total film production spend in 2007 was $496 million, which is way less than $1.53 billion and $1 billion, respectively, in France and Germany, where tax credits are a vital driver of vibrant indie industries.

The incentives are not expected to become operative before November.

Producer Riccardo Tozzi, head of prominent Rome shingle Cattleya, has called the tax breaks the most important piece of legislation for the local industry since its heyday in the 1960s.

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