Live Performance Australia calls for theatre industry tax relief

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Live Performance Australia (LPA) has urged the country’s government to give its theatre sector a boost through a UK-style theatre tax offset.

The body called for tax incentives for theatre producers that would apply to pre-production expenses and be cost neutral when set between 25% and 40%. This would stimulate investment in the live theatre sector and generate jobs.

LPA chief executive Evelyn Richardson feels that tax incentives to offset costs for theatre would bring more performances to Australian stages and boost employment opportunities on stage and off.

“Australian theatre producers compete internationally for investment to capitalise their productions, with 80 percent coming from offshore investors,” Richardson said.

“We are currently much less competitive than the UK or US where the significant costs involved in developing new works can be claimed back through tax rebates.

“It’s exactly the kind of initiative we need to help power up Australia’s theatre industry and to attract private investment in shows for Australian and international audiences.”

LPA’s proposal for a live theatre tax offset in the 2024-25 federal budget would be available to commercial and not-for-profit theatrical producers and would cover key theatre production costs. The federal budget statement is scheduled for May.

The Australian government already provides A$123m (£63.7m/$81.2m/€74.5m) each year in tax offsets for the film and computer game industries, which includes support for international productions made in the country.

“The screen incentives have delivered real benefit for the Australian film industry – we should be doing the same for our world-class theatre industry, too,” Richardson said.

“Our live theatrical sector, including musical and dramatic theatre, opera, ballet and dance, and children’s and family entertainment, contributed almost 34 percent of ticketed attendance, and just under one-third of total revenue for live performance in 2022, and is the largest category after contemporary music.

“Our proposal could support more Australian-made theatre, including original works by Australian creators telling our stories for more Australian and international audiences.”

The proposed scheme comes as the UK made its Theatre Tax Relief scheme permanent in this week’s Budget. It sees a relief rate of 40% for productions, or 45% for those that tour, introduced. The UK Theatre Tax Relief covers plays, operas, musical, ballet or other dramatic pieces that tell a story through live performance.