With the UK's film tax funding in flux, financiers, producers and even two US studios are flocking to a new breed of fund that is not reliant on the current regulations under Section 48.
The latest fund devised under general accountancy principles rather than any film-specific tax break sees UK financier Invicta partnering with Sony, according to sources. Invicta, which did not return calls by press time, and the US studio are apparently launching a tax-driven p&a fund titled Gala.
Warner Bros recently raised eyebrows when it partnered with Scotts Atlantic to form another p&a fund under general accountancy rules. While Section 48 is applicable only on British qualifying films, the Scotts Atlantic fund provides tax-driven funding on the p&a spend in North America of US films.
It is still unclear whether the Government will waive through all the schemes using such accountancy principles rather than Section 48. It is thought to be too early for even the first scheme, Ingenious Media's Inside Track, to have received its tax relief.
However, no doubt with at least one eye on potential Government reaction, Inside Track and Grosvenor Park's First Choice have been careful to back only the production costs of British qualifying films from established producers, even though there is no requirement for them to finance just UK fare. Inside Track has bankrolled such titles as Pathe's Girl With A Pearl Earring, while First Choice is on board Samuelson Productions' You Don't Have To Say You Love Me and Little Bird's Trauma.
The latest player to launch a similar fund is tax-based financier Baker Street, which starts the Scene Film Partnership next week. Like Inside Track and First Choice, Baker Street's scheme is aimed at providing production cash on UK qualifying films.
Baker Street chief Keith Evans aims to raise £10m to provide 30% of the budget on a slate worth £30m in total. He said that the first two or three films are already earmarked and would account for two thirds of the funds. In addition to the 30% from Scene, films can access a further 15% from traditional sale and leaseback schemes under Section 48.
Evans said that the fact that Section 48 only has a year to run until it is due to expire made using it for a new fund impractical. He argued that the wave of funds using accountancy principles would remain more attractive to producers even if the Government replaces Section 48 with a transferable tax credit, as Chancellor Gordon Brown signalled he would do this week.
One source said that, on the new tax credit, the government is considering halving the level of relief currently available. As the new credit is expected to be more efficient, that would still leave producers with at least as much as they enjoy through Section 48's sale and leaseback schemes. But it would fall short of the amount available through the new accountancy schemes, which can provide up to 35% of a budget on top of a sale and leaseback scheme's 15%.
Evans denied that such schemes, which apparently could exist alongside the new tax credit as they run alongside Section 48 now, were exploiting a loophole. "I've got really robust about this," he said. "It is not a loophole. It is very much in use in hundreds of business. And any income is taxable."
Scene requires investors to provide 32% while Baker Street will be responsible for 70%. The difference of 2% is for fees.
The Scene fund proposes being one of the last investors to recoup from a film, but taking a premium on money before net profits and "a very good" share of net profits.
Evans said that being one of the last to recoup would help the fund's application for tax relief under accountancy rules, which allow a company to write off its trading losses against tax.