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MATT CROCKETT

THESTAGE.CO.UK

Fighting for the future of theatre since 1880

of theatre since 1880

Theatre makes 11th-hour bid to save tax relief

FEBRUARY .

FEBRUARY .

M A R C B R E N N E R

GEORGIA LUCKHURST

Industry bosses are making last-ditch calls on the government to maintain the higher rate of Theatre Tax Relief in next week’s Budget, with warnings there are already fewer shows planned for the next two years as the sector prepares itself for a reduction to the scheme.

According to the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, fears that the rate will return to pre-pandemic levels have already prompted a 20% reduction in the productions planned for the next financial year and a 17% drop in the number of playing weeks.

There is also an anticipated reduction of almost a third in the total number of productions and playing weeks planned for 2026, the organisations claimed.

It comes as a new survey reveals that the higher rate of Theatre Tax Relief has helped organisations employ an additional 14,712 people in the past financial year.

SOLT and UK Theatre members also said the elevated rate of 50% for touring productions and 45% for non-touring shows, which was introduced in 2021 as a temporary measure, had saved them a total value of £85,686,881 in relief claimed.

Organisations are now readying themselves for TTR to drop to an interim rate of 30-35% on April 1, 2025, before its return to 20% and 25% from April 2026.

Producer Kenny Wax warned that “a loss of the higher rate of tax would be a massive blow”.

How TTR has benefited organisations:

83%

were able to make greater-scale productions

65%

were able to produce more shows felt able to create more opportunities for future generations of artists 83%

felt more able to invest in skills development 72%

said they had increased business for suppliers 69%

Wax, whose current West End productions include Six the Musical, said TTR had encouraged investors to feel more secure financing theatre.

He said: “The TTR reduces the ‘total loss’ scenario significantly, because if a production is well managed, even if the losses are considerable, the TTR should enable a return of say 20-30% to investors. It might not seem a great

Hadestown Anaïs Mitchell’s mythical musical comes to the West End Review, p15

deal, but it may just encourage them to invest again.”

Claire Walker and Hannah Essex, co-chief executives of SOLT and UK Theatre, are calling on chancellor Jeremy Hunt ahead of the Spring Budget on March 6 to make the higher rate of TTR permanent, highlighting spiralling costs for the industry.

Writing in their survey report, they said: “As costs for our members have risen dramatically, it is harder to recruit and retain the skilled people we need, and public investment is increasingly squeezed, resulting in a more vulnerable theatre ecosystem.

“Maintaining the higher rate of TTR is essential to maintaining and growing the vibrancy and dynamism of our sector, which gives us our world-leading status.”

Conducted in February 2024, the TTR survey invited SOLT and UK Theatre members to reflect on the impact and importance of the raised rate, with the results based on a representative sample of 75 organisations.

Chris Stafford, chief executive at Curve in Leicester and producer of nearly 100

productions, said: “Coming out of lockdown, the government’s intervention of an enhanced rate was instrumental in rebooting our sector and gave producers and theatres the confidence to take the risk of producing work once more.

“However, the post-lockdown world remains incredibly challenging for our industry, with rising costs across the board, standstill public funding and diminishing local authority investment. TTR is critical to our operating budgets – many of our businesses now depend on it. Without this higher rate I fear less work will be produced, which may have far-reaching consequences for our sector and communities.”

President of SOLT, producer Eleanor Lloyd, added: “The higher rate of tax relief directly enables the creation of groundbreaking productions, the hiring of more talent and brings exhilarating live shows to audiences. It is a fundamental enabler of the UK’s world-leading theatre, which simultaneously grows the economy and delivers transformative social good to communities across the country.”

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