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Keep VAT at 5%, pleads UK live sector

Live music, theatre and events leaders are calling on chancellor Rishi Sunak to keep the lower rate of VAT on tickets until after the business restarts

By IQ on 04 Feb 2021

The VAT holiday will have been pointless if it ends now, says the letter

The VAT holiday will have been pointless if it ends now, says the letter

Leading UK live entertainment industry organisations and associations have written to the chancellor of the exchequer urging him to maintain the temporary 5% rate of value-added tax on ticket sales.

While lower rate of VAT was brought in last year, the business has yet to feel the benefit due to its near-total closure since March 2020. In the letter, addressed to Rishi Sunak, the signatories say that if the government raises VAT back to 20% in the March budget, the policy will have been pointless and will pull millions of pounds’ worth of support when the industry most needs it.

“The whole sector has been brought to its knees by the pandemic,” says Lucy Noble, chair of the National Arenas Association (NAA). “Increasing VAT on tickets by 300% at this time could be the final nail in the coffin for many in the music industry. And at precisely the moment when people urgently need the joy of music in their lives.”

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee recommended a three-year extension to the 5% VAT policy in their Impacts of COVID-19 on DCMS Sectors inquiry in July last year. The committee’s chair, Julian Knight MP, says: “Pulling the plug on the reduced VAT rate for ticket sales now would be short-sighted. The DCMS Committee recommended in its July 2020 report that the 5% VAT rate should be kept for three years.

“With live events still unable to operate, this is needed more than ever. I fully support LIVE [Live music Industry, Venues & Entertainment]’s campaign. Now is the time to extend support for our vibrant creative sector, which could be a cornerstone of our economic recovery from this crisis.”

“Increasing VAT on tickets by 300% at this time could be the final nail in the coffin for many in the music industry”

In addition to the NAA and umbrella organisation LIVE, signatories to the letter include the Concert Promoters Association, Music Managers Forum, Music Venue Trust, UK Theatre, the Association of Independent Festivals, the Entertainment Agents Association and the Musicians’ Union.

Julian Bird, chief executive of UK Theatre and SOLT (Society of London Theatre), comments: ‘The theatre industry, alongside others in the performing arts and live events sector, was first into lockdown last March, and will almost definitely be one of the last out. With a usual annual audience of over 34m, generating around £1bn for the Treasury every year, the UK’s theatres contribute hugely to the economic and cultural life of this country, and will be key for local recovery.

“It is vital that the government helps ensure the industry’s survival by continuing the reduced VAT rates.’

Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, the UK’s creative industries were growing at five times the rate of the wider economy, generating £11.25 billion in gross value added each year and supporting over 600,000 jobs. Without urgent and targeted government intervention, the companies, producers, performers and infrastructure that support these industry’s complex ecosystem will not be able to recover once the pandemic is over, warns LIVE.


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