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ELSPA: No "witch hunt" over tax break sabotage rumours

Report that publisher forced tax relief U-turn "totally left of field," says Rawlinson

ELSPA has told GamesIndustry.biz that it will not go on a "witch hunt" to find a publisher accused of sabotaging planned tax relief for the UK games business.

A report by Develop Online has suggested that a global publishing company pressured the UK government into dropping planned tax breaks for the local industry, fearing unfair competition from the UK. The report does not name any sources or the publisher allegedly involved.

While not all developers and publishers agree that tax breaks are necessary for the industry, ELSPA director general Michael Rawlinson - who has been at the heart of lobbying and negotiations with the government and MPs - said today that at no point has the organisation comes across such an anti-tax relief agenda from a publishing company.

"We have no idea where that has come from, it's totally left of field and has certainly not been on the agenda of any of the many political briefings we've been involved in," he said. "That's not to say it's not true, but we've been discussing tax relief for some time, and lobbying solidly. It's something we haven't come across."

As an organisation that represents the interests of the publishing community, Rawlinson said ELSPA would look into the rumours, but would not pressure members without evidence.

"We'll certainly make enquiries but it's highly unlikely anyone will admit to lobbying against tax relief for the industry. If we see some hard evidence then we'll listen to that, but there's certainly not going to be a witch hunt."

"These are complicated matters and to say one publisher stopped tax relief for the industry, and that it's not fair, isn't realistic. Following the savage tax cuts and the belt-tightening that the government has announced, irrespective of the benefits to the industry, any tax relief for an entertainment business would have been politically dangerous."

Increased lobbying had put pressure on the last government, noted Rawlinson, echoing feelings in the industry that tax breaks were only ever announced to placate the games business ahead of the election.

"The government went from seeing a lack of conviction for tax relief to seeing the games industry as the best thing since sliced bread last March, and I'm not sure the arguments for tax breaks were any more convincing, there was just more lobbying.

"I think it was a cynical move by a government that wouldn't have had to deal with the consequences following the election."

Although tax relief has been scrapped, new measures for lower corporation tax and National Insurance exemptions are positives for the industry, said Rawlinson, and the government can still work with the industry on skills building.

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Latest comments (9)

Aidan Fitzpatrick Artist 6 years ago
I find this hugely upsetting if true.
There are only two names that come to mind when considering the Develop article - "One of the biggest game companies in the world"...

Tiga CEO, Dr Richard Wilson:
"The UK's competitors in Canada, in many states of the USA, in France and in Australia all have tax breaks at a state level or at a local level. This is already having the affect of drawing investment away from the UK".

The U-turn by the 'Con-Dems' was already a bitter pill to swallow.
If it turns out the allegations being made by Develop are true, then it's another kick in the face.

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All we're asking is for consideration to level the playing field versus other regions that have game positive incentives.

A good example was at the recent GDC San Fran. Canada put on a whole private persuasive/seductive bizdev show, GDC expo and Games Connect for every Canadian developer/publisher to incentivise and promote growth towards Canada.

In start contrast with the support of UKTI/TIGA we were able to send just 6 UK studios to Game Connect and a few key studios to GDC expo.

Post recession, this was a crucial and important event for UK developers and bizdev potential. So, both a financial, promotional and out-of-the-box push towards providing the entertainment sector as a powerhouse of creative talent, should be realised additionally - on both a NGO/industrial and intenral stimulus level
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 6 years ago
I agree that the UK definitely needs some tax breaks or incentives to encourage growth in the industry, but despite these claims about a publisher having an anti-tax agenda, I don't believe the Tories would have put such a change through anyway.
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Show all comments (9)
There is the Lib Dems partners to talk to as well.
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Private Industry 6 years ago
Unfair competition from the UK? So what`s then with Canada? Shame that it failed, UK had and still has good developers (even when not anymore as strong globally as 10 years ago) would have been nice to see more new studios show up there or more big companies opening studios in the UK. And a big advantage the UK has over Canada (Quebec) or France for people is that you are perfectly fine if you speak only English and not required to know a second language.
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we love our german counterparts as well Ya!
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Leon Green Political lobbyist & Gamers Voice Director 6 years ago
Really this is a distraction from getting the government to change it's mind over tax breaks...
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Private Industry 6 years ago
You mean the German games industry? Don`t know don`t have a good overview of the games industry there from Austria and not Germany.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 6 years ago
I know it was an aside, but saying Australia has tax breaks for the video game industry is very false, very few places in the world do.
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