There were a number of media and telecoms related implications within the 2015 Budget announced by the Chancellor on 18 March 2015 (Budget), as summarised below.
The media-related tax measures include:
- an increase in the rate of film tax relief;
- changes to high-end television tax relief
- changes to animation tax relief;
- introduction of a new corporation tax relief for the production of children’s television; and
- introduction of a new corporation tax relief for orchestras.
Film, Television and Animation Tax Reliefs
The Budget confirmed the following changes in relation to tax reliefs for film, television and animation, all such changes taking effect from 1 April 2015:
- for all films, an enhanced deduction will be given for 100% of qualifying expenditure. Currently, this 100% rate of enhanced deduction is restricted to limited budget films with core expenditure of £20 million or less, and the enhanced deduction for bigger budget films is 80% of qualifying expenditure;
- for all films, the payable above the line credit will be 25%. Currently, this 25% rate is only available for limited budget films with core expenditure of £20 million or less, and the above the line credit for bigger budget films is 20%;
- subject to State aid clearance, the minimum UK expenditure requirement for high-end television and animation will be reduced to 10% (from 25%) and the “cultural test” for these productions will be modernised and aligned with that for film tax relief;
- a new corporation tax relief will be introduced for children’s television, including games shows and competitions. The rate of relief will be 25% on qualifying production expenditure.
New Tax Relief for Orchestras, Brass Bands etc
In the Budget, it was confirmed that, from 1 April 2016, a new corporation tax relief will be introduced for orchestras, brass bands etc. The rate of tax relief will be 25% of qualifying expenditure.
In relation to the telecoms sector, the Budget announced details of the Government’s digital communications strategy as well as funding to help protect vulnerable people from nuisance calls.
Digital Communications Strategy
The Budget confirmed the Government’s new target that ultrafast broadband, of at least 100Mbps, should be available to nearly all UK premises. However no details of a target date or pledge of the funds for this intention were given.
The Budget did outline that £600 million was being made available for digital communications infrastructure to support the change of use of the 700MHz spectrum for mobile broadband connectivity. The Government expects to recover this investment following the auction of this spectrum.
In 2010, the Government set a goal for the UK to have the "best" superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015, although this was not defined in terms of speed. In the Budget, the Government stated a revised aim that by 2017 superfast (which has been previously defined as 24Mbps) coverage will reach 95% of premises, and that mobile operators will achieve 4G coverage to 98% of premises.
The Government’s Digital Communications Infrastructure Strategy was published alongside the Budget and repeated the main points from the Budget in this area, as well as outlining other ongoing activities, including:
- Ofcom's recent announcement of a strategic review of the UK digital communications markets;
- the reform of the Electronic Communications Code, on which the Government is currently consulting; and
- the existing UK Guarantees Scheme through which the Government can help infrastructure projects raise debt finance.
The Government has promised a £3.5 million package to explore ways of protecting vulnerable people from nuisance calls, including trialling the use and development of innovative call blocking technology, research and campaigning to raise awareness of how to reduce and report nuisance calls.
A Government action plan on nuisance calls was previously published in April 2014, and work on this is ongoing.