In line with its published spending estimates for 2003 (Screendaily, November 15) the Irish Government has reduced the Irish Film Board's allocation in its pared-back Budget for 2003.
The Film Board's funding has been cut by an aggregate 12.5%, leaving it with Euros 1.6m to spend on administration and Euros 9.2m to spend on training and capital loans to assist film production.
What was not expected in the Minister for Finance's budget speech was his curtailment of several tax relief based investment schemes that are all now to end in two years time on the 31 December, 2004. This includes the Section 481 film investment scheme which currently costs the Irish exchequer in the region of Euros 29m a year and had been scheduled to run until April 5, 2005.
Irish film producers are to meet today (December 10) to work out their response to the budget. They will take some comfort from the Minister's budget speech when he said, 'I am a supporter of properly-focussed, clearly-defined, specific reliefs which can encourage the development of goods and services, including public services, which might otherwise not be provided, or where provided, are too little or too late.'
Commenting on the issue of the Irish Government's ongoing support for a tax-based incentive for the industry Film Board CEO Rod Stoneman said, 'It would be extraordinary if the Government denies itself the significant net financial benefits to the Irish economy which are generated by Section 481. Apart from underpinning the continued success of the indigenous industry, this tax incentive is essential to maintaining Ireland's attraction as a location for international productions. In addition, the film industry has important positive effects on other parts of the economy such as Tourism.'