The impact of the theatre industry shutdown is without precedent in modern times. During the Second World War, many such as the Oxford Playhouse enjoyed a period of prosperity, thanks to the public’s desperate need for entertainment, serious or frivolous. Even in the First World War, when the future Daily Telegraph critic WA Darlington said the serious theatre found itself with nothing to say and nobody to listen, smaller theatres kept going with what theatre historian JC Trewin called the “roaring of melodrama and the twitterings of revue”.
It was after the Second World War, when the public resumed their daily lives, that the theatre suffered. The first two places I worked at as a trainee reporter and critic, Keighley and Swindon, had both recently lost their theatres.
As well as a challenge to the government and the Arts Council to protect entertainment workers, the shutdown presents an opportunity to embrace digital technology more widely and for technicians to explore cheap, innovative ways of updating smaller theatres for the 21st century in the same way as impresarios like Cameron Mackintosh in the West End.
These are anxious times for the theatre industry. Income will be in short supply, so it is imperative that companies squeeze every last drop available. Most, but not all, theatre companies will be claiming theatre tax relief and the payable tax credit. This is the moment to review the claims that are made.
As claims are made in company tax returns, they are dependent on the preparation of the company’s annual accounts. Can the time it takes to prepare these be shortened? I have clients whose accounts take nine months to prepare while others achieve this in one month. The quicker the preparation of the accounts, the sooner the tax return and tax credit claim can be submitted and the sooner the tax credit is in the company’s bank account.
If it’s too long to wait until the end of the current accounting period, a company can shorten its accounting period. Bring the year end forward and the company can bring forward the preparation of accounts, submission of the tax return with tax credit claim and therefore the receipt of the tax credit.
Small theatre companies might never have submitted a company tax return and so haven’t claimed TTR. The fact that HMRC has never requested the submission of a tax return does not prevent that company from claiming tax relief. I am happy to explain HMRC’s processes if there are any questions.
Finally, TTR can be claimed on productions that are abandoned. There is no requirement that a production must be performed to qualify.
Undoubtedly, these are unprecedented and anxious times but, it is worth remembering that all things must pass. Keep well.
Creative Tax Reliefs Limited
It would be good to see household names stepping away from the advertising and voice-over work on TV and radio, to allow young actors who really need to make come income at this time – where it is possible to record safely, of course.
The Theatre Cafe is hosting live-streamed paid concerts to support performers. Why are all the best ideas are coming from small arts organisations? The giants of theatre ownership and management are strangely silent, when they could be facilitating similar initiatives.
“It’s been said already, but worth repeating, that everything you are watching, reading, or playing at home to get though this has been made by self-employed freelancers. If we could be PAYE, we would be. But our industry doesn’t allow it. We hope for some good news for us soon.” – Katy Brand, writer, comedian and actor (Twitter)
“Theatre companies around the country have been up against the wall for quite some time with arts and local government cuts and without support they will go under. It needs a sector-wide gesture of support immediately.” – National Theatre artistic director Rufus Norris (Evening Standard)
“Timelines are full of theatre/arts leadership clearly and calmly doing what the government won’t – and at a potential cost that would be unnecessary if the government had taken the lead. In case you’re looking back later and wondering who gave a shit.” – Theatremaker Chris Thorpe (Twitter)
“It’s okay to be angry or heartbroken. Does that mean that there isn’t a bigger picture, or that others aren’t suffering more than us? No, but we have to feel the feelings, then we can start to heal.” – Erica Whyman, RSC deputy artistic director (Twitter)
“I’m worried that in our speed to create content and commissions in these odd times, we’ll (who am I kidding – you’ll) fall back on ingrained biases at a time where the whole nation is going to be looking. So please, before announcing, do some checks.” – Natalie Ibu, artistic director, Tiata Fahodzi (Twitter)
“I thought about the electricity bill, but we’ve kept our lights on to say that the show may not be on right now, but will be back very shortly.” – Cameron Mackintosh on leaving the lights on in his West End theatres (Evening Standard)
“I feel like I’m living in Act I of a Zinnie Harris play.” – David Greig, artistic director, Royal Lyceum Theatre (Twitter)
“Freelance artists are in a nightmare situation, but so are artistic and executive directors. The responsibility could have been taken out of their hands and assurances offered. They’ve been hung out to dry.” – David Mercatali, director (Twitter)
“This time last Tuesday morning we had nothing. A week later we have £46,312 thanks to the incredible generosity and selflessness of people. For anyone finding this hard, it’s a little reminder of how incredible we can be together.” – Paul Taylor-Mills, artistic director of Turbine Theatre on the Fund for Freelancers (Twitter)
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