U.K. extends tax breaks to TV drama, toons, vidgames

Chancellor George Osborne boosts biz

Blighty’s television sector will benefit from a tax break to encourage home-grown programs to lense in the country and attract overseas productions.

Chancellor George Osborne, the pol charged with care of the country’s finances, revealed during his annual budget report in Parliament on Wednesday that the 20% film tax credit will be extended to high-end TV drama, videogames and animation.

“The film tax credit, protected in our spending review, helped generate over £1 billion ($1.58 million) of film production in the U.K. last year alone,” Osborne said. Expanding it would, he said, not only encourage U.K. TV productions to shoot at home but possibly “attract Disney and HBO to make more of their premium shows in the U.K.”

“It is our determination to keep ‘Wallace and Gromit’ exactly where they are,” he said.

While details have yet to be unveiled, it is believed that TV dramas with a budget of more than £1 million ($1.58 million) will benefit from a 20%-25% tax credit. The program will operate along the same lines as the film tax relief, whereby projects must pass a cultural test to qualify as a British production. It’s expected to go into effect in 2013.

The news has already been widely welcomed by industryites.

“The proposed changes in the U.K. tax laws regarding television would give the British industry a much-needed shot in the arm,” said Andy Harries, whose Left Bank is currently shooting “Mad Dog” and “Strike Back” in South Africa.

“British production talent is responsible for some of the best television in the world and at the moment many productions, which could easily be shot in the U.K., are being made abroad and many talented creatives are moving elsewhere.”

Stephen Garrett, chairman of Kudos Film and TV, called the news “fantastic.” “There is a huge demand for good quality television dramas around the world. In the U.K., we have a brilliant track record of coming up with the ideas and talent to produce them, and now we have the critical piece of the jigsaw to ensure that they are made over here.”

Stewart Till, co-CEO of U.S.-based RHI Entertainment, said, “Today’s news is a game changer. It will have a fundamental effect on where we base our multi-million dollar productions in the future. Up until now, Europe and Canada have been our destinations of choice as it has simply been too expensive for us to shoot in the U.K., despite the first-class facilities.”

Glenn Whitehead, exec VP of business and legal affairs at HBO, said the move has “turned the U.K. from one of the most expensive options into a competitive and affordable location.”

Josh Berger, prexy and managing director of Warner Bros. Entertainment U.K., Ireland and Spain, said, “This announcement is great news for the U.K.’s creative industries. As major investors in U.K. TV, film and video games production we welcome all measures aimed at supporting the UK to further develop and sustain its strong position in these key creative sectors.”

Warner owns TV producer Shed and games developers Rocksteady and TT.

Countries including Ireland, where “Camelot” and “The Tudors” tapped the 28% tax credit, and Canada and Hungary, which hosted “Titanic” from “Downton Abbey” scribe Julian Fellowes, have become increasingly attractive for lensing thanks to tax breaks.

Additionally, Osbourne revealed that the cap for Enterprise Investment Schemes, which are sometimes used to finance films, has been raised 150% to $7.9 million (instead of the predicted $15.8 million), upping the amount of coin a company can invest tax free in projects.