Belfast Telegraph

Tax breaks 'critical to Ulster's film industry'

By David Elliott

Tax breaks for creative industries could create thousands more jobs and help rebalance the Northern Ireland economy, according to business advisers PwC.

It said the success of Belfast's Titanic Studios in attracting HBO's television drama Game of Thrones and the likes of Universal film Your Highness have already meant the region has a high standing in the eyes of the world's film makers. But more needs to be done to help attract big productions to these shores.

Tax partner at PwC Martin Fleetwood said tax breaks would be the most effective means, particularly given that the Republic already has in place a similar incentive.

"The Irish Film Board's Section 481 tax break offers a tax incentive of up to 28% of the cost of television, film and animation production in RoI, with a ceiling of €50m (£40m)," he said. "That has helped create a sector valued at over €500m, which attracted production spending in Ireland of more than €225m (£180m) alone, in 2010."

Mr Fleetwood was speaking after the release of an HM Treasury consultation paper looking at the future of the creative industries in the UK .

"If we are looking at ways to diversify and rebalance the economy, film, television and animation production offers Northern Ireland a means to increase its share of an industry already worth £4.5bn a year to the UK.

"Recent research suggests that tax relief for the UK industry could generate £13 for every £1 invested and extending tax reliefs could see Northern Ireland's already established screen and creative sector become a massive wealth creator."

He said that Game of Thrones contributes around £20m per series to the Northern Ireland economy; The Natalie Portman film Your Highness brought in a further £11m to Northern Ireland. A report commissioned in 2010 into the economic contribution of the UK Film Industry concluded that the sector directly employed 36,000 people and has been relatively immune from the impact of the recession.

The report also warned that a growing number of non-EU states were increasing tax breaks to attract film production and that failing to remain competitive in this area could be very damaging.

Around 58% of industry workers are graduates and the industry average wage is £33,700 - well above the national average.