Dundee City West MSP Joe FitzPatrick, Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Computer Games at the Scottish Parliament has written today [2 March] to the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne urging him to extend support to video games developers in his forthcoming Budget so that they can compete on a level playing field with international competitors.
Joe FitzPatrick said: “Although we have been campaigning on this point for some time alongside Games companies and TIGA, the forthcoming Budget offers the Chancellor a new opportunity to listen to his colleagues and offer support for the sector.
“In my letter, I have asked for clarification of what efforts, if any, his Government has made to establish whether a Games Tax Relief would, as TIGA suggests, ‘more than pay for itself.’
“Over a year ago, the UK Government was asked to initiate such a study, which would establish the veracity of these claims once and for all. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this appears to be an opportunity missed.
“I have reminded the Chancellor of recent comments by his party collegues on this issue. The Rt. Hon David Davis MP, for example, has made clear, ‘we won’t pay the deficit off if we don’t get growth.’ A carefully targeted Games Tax Relief could deliver a vital spur for games developers who are swimming against the tide in the face of stiff competition from better-supported developers overseas, as well as deliver a much-needed boost to HM Treasury coffers.
“In the foreword to TIGA’s study, the Rt. Hon. John Whittingdale MP, his Conservative colleague and Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee noted that, ‘a new Games Tax Relief…would generate a good return on investment,’ as well as expressed the belief that, ‘if the right support from Government is forthcoming, the UK game development sector can take advantage of projected [global] growth.’
“During an oral evidence session of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 30 March 2011, The Rt. Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, made clear that tax breaks for the video games industry are, ‘constantly under review.’
“The Culture Secretary went on to explain that while the UK Government, ‘would love to be able to support the video games industry in the way that we support the film industry…there is a cost to these measures.’ It was also noted that a tax break for the industry is something that his Department, ‘would like to happen,’ but that this would have to be considered in the context of the overall financial deficit.
“While there can be no doubt that the introduction of a Games Tax Relief would ostensibly come at a cost to HM Treasury in terms of diminished tax receipts, any analysis of this issue must appreciate that it is believed that the measure would create a context in which developers would flourish, enabling them to expand and invest in order to generate a net income for HM Treasury over four years, as TIGA’s proposals outline.
“TIGA’s proposals for a Games Tax Relief suggest that a targeted measure could generate £172 million in new and protected tax receipts to HM Treasury over four years at a cost of just £96 million. This would amount to a return of £1.21 for every £1 of relief offered.
“In addition to this, TIGA believes that a Games Tax Relief would create and protect 4,661 direct and indirect jobs across the UK, would help to safeguard and increase the £188 million investment expenditure made by studios, as well as would increase the sector’s contribution to UK GDP by £283 million.
“Games developers are high-technology, highly skilled, low carbon businesses with the potential to succeed in global markets, provided that they are given the right support. The industry is also export-oriented and its global growth potential represents an opportunity for us to help rebalance the economy and support economic recovery.
“I have reminded him that the the Scottish Affairs Select Committee study into the Video Games Industry in Scotland, published in January 2011, called upon his Government to, ‘undertake a full and comprehensive assessment to determine the benefits of such a [Games Tax] relief.’
“I hope that the Chancellor will take all these points into account and listen to his colleagues and computer games bodies while he is finalising his Budget and see the good financial case for introducing support along these lines.”