The Irish ministers of Arts and Finance have taken delivery of the PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PWC) report commissioned by the Department of Arts and the Irish Film Board to analyse the workings and effectiveness of the Section 481 tax incentive for the Irish film industry.
Because of issues relating to taxation policy the report will not be publicly released until either early December when the Irish exchequer budget for 2004 is announced, or in January of next year when the Minister for Finance announces certain taxation provisions in the 2004 Finance Act.
Opening the Irish pavillion at Cannes in last May the Irish Arts minister, John O'Donoghue, implicitly referred to the brief given to PWC when he said, "This will involve a complete review of the existing incentive structures, of where they position us strategically and competitively, and where we need to position ourselves after 2004 to ensure that we remain attractive as a filming location."
O'Donoghue has since put on record his general support for some incentive for the industry while his ministerial colleague in the Department of Finance, Charlie McCreevy, has said, "a balance needs to be struck between economic activity and the cost to the Exchequer." To date this year seventeen film and television productions or co-productions have raised Euros54.5million in Section 481 tax funding.
Senior public servants in the Department of Finance are advising McCreevy not to renew the tax break, their advice based on allegations of abuse and unacceptable transaction costs in the scheme, none of which have been publicly documented by the Department.
On June 30 Irish producers, through their association Screen Producers Ireland (SPI), launched a high profile campaign for retention of the incentive beyond its December 31, 2004 termination date (ScreenDaily.com). They have been joined in the campaign by actors' and technicians' union SIPTU but it now appears the entire industry may have to wait a further four months to learn if their campaign has had any effect.