By Brendan Swift

The Producer Offset tax rebate has bolstered screen productions by more than $123 million since the incentive was launched in July 2007.

Screen Australia chief executive Ruth Harley said the rebate has helped the industry to achieve a 1.3 per cent increase in total production activity last financial year, despite the impact of the global financial crisis.

“The Offset is a godsend and you couldn’t have invented something better if you had known that crisis was coming along,” she said at the Screen Producers Association of Australia conference this morning.

While documentaries accounted for about half of the projects to receive final Offset approval, feature films made up about three quarters of the total $123.48 million cost.

The Offset returns up to 40 per cent of qualifying production expenditure to feature film producers and 20 per cent to TV productions via the tax system.

However, Harley also acknowledged that transaction costs to administer the Offset remain high for documentaries, while feature films in the $5 million to $15 million budget range are still struggling to raise private financing.

“We will work with the Government in the context of the forthcoming review of the independent production sector to ensure that the Offset works as well as possible into the future,” she said in a statement.

The agency hopes to improve the payment’s timing and relax current tax secrecy laws, which prevent it from naming Offset recipients.

The research released at the conference also showed that most Australian films released over the past five years have had limited releases, which makes it difficult for Australian fare to impact overall box office numbers.

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