An American superhero, a Japanese hedgehog and a simulation about the life of a goat are among the video games that have been able to cash-in on a government scheme to promote ‘culturally British’ games, a new report from TaxWatch has found.
Published today – Swedish goats, Japanese hedgehogs and Batman: How the BFI assess games as “culturally British” for Video Games Tax Relief – has analysed the ‘culturally British’ test administered by the British Film Institute which has unlocked hundreds of millions of pounds in tax relief to the video games industry.
The report scores a number of games against the British Film Institute’s own cultural test criteria. The report finds that the test, which is supposed to ensure that only games which are culturally British gain access to support, is meaningless, with the criteria being drawn so widely that practically any game made in the UK, or European Economic Area could gain certification, regardless of the underlying subject matter.
The loose rules around the cultural test have led to the Government spending tens of millions of pounds more than originally intended on support for the video games industry.
TaxWatch UK Researcher, Alex Dunnagan, commented:
“When the government announced the Video Games Tax Relief Scheme it said it was there to support the production of culturally British games that could not be produced without subsidy. However, since its launch the scheme has given away tens of millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money to large, well-established international franchises produced by big multinational companies.
“After analysing the British Film Institute’s cultural test, the gateway to the subsidy, we found that developers don’t have to be that creative in their claims. The test is so easy to pass that even Batman gets awarded culturally British status.
“On the evidence we have found it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the “culturally British” test is a fig leaf designed purely to get around European Commission rules on state aid.”
- The full report can be found here.
- A PDF version can be downloaded here.
- A spreadsheet setting out the scoring of the games undertaken by TaxWatch can be found here.
The games scored by TaxWatch were: Grand Theft Auto V, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Goat Simulator, Sonic Forces and Batman Arkham Knight. All of the games have been certified as culturally British by the British Film Institute.
This research was featured in The Times and Law360 among others.