Screen Australia clarifies offset guidelines

21 April, 2009 by IF

By Brendan Swift

Screen Australia has warned feature film producers not to apply for its lucrative tax rebate too early or risk having smaller-than-anticipated budgets approved.


While most television producers are applying for the Producer Offset once a broadcaster is on board, most feature film producers are applying “when there is nothing but a screenplay in place” according to the federal government’s film agency.

The Producer Offset was introduced in July 2007 allowing producers to claim 40 per cent of qualifying Australian production expenditure (QAPE) on a feature film and 20 per cent on other productions such as TV programs.

“It is also worth noting that the Producer Offset Unit will only reassess QAPE in special circumstances and that priority will always be given to new applications,” Screen Australia said in a media statement.

The agency also yesterday clarified its significant Australian content test. It follows a reported dispute between Screen Australia and Australian director Alex Proyas, who recently expressed disappointment that the Melbourne-shot sci-fi feature Knowing was ineligible for the 40 per cent rebate and instead would receive the 15 per cent location rebate.

Screen Australia’s guidelines are now more explicit about the subject matter of the film and the production expenditure of the film although the final judgement on Australian content is still at the discretion of the agency.

Meanwhile, Screen Australia also yesterday said it is continuing to work with the government to alleviate ongoing concerns about the timing of the Producer Offset.

The rebate can only be claimed in the financial year that a production is finished, encouraging producers to delay their projects or risk paying higher financing costs.

Between December 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009, Screen Australia issued no feature film final certificates – which are only issued after a film is completed – although it issued 13 provisional certificates.

The total number of final certificates across all types of productions has risen from 13 last December (for a total QAPE of $23.9 million) to 19 at the end of March (for a QAPE of $40.9 million).

The total number of provisional certificates has risen from 178 at the start of December 2008 to 216 at the end of March.