TV and film studios are threatening high property tax increases in the UK

TV and film studios are facing large increases in property taxes, raising concerns that the UK’s position as a global entertainment hub could be undermined if authorities don’t reconsider.

Several renowned production facilities, including Shepperton Studios and Warner Brothers Studios Leavesdenare threatened by some of the biggest rises in business taxes for all types of property after tax officials reassessed the value of commercial properties across England and Wales.

Big studios expect their annual business rates to increase by 30 percent from April, the maximum increase since the levy is capped. Reviewers warned that studios also faced increases of a similar magnitude in subsequent years.

Government records show that Pinewood Studios was hit by a fourfold increase in its “taxable value” used to determine business rates, while Shepperton and the Warner Brothers site were hit by a fivefold increase.

Ratings are the government appraiser’s estimate of the annual rent a occupant would pay for a property if rented on the open market. The government then applies a multiplier, usually linked to inflation, to the taxable value to calculate corporate interest.

The reviewers warned that the biggest threat to new studio developments would be when the increases come into effect, which would not benefit from the business rate cap, and that foreign investors in particular would be reconsidering whether to go ahead with construction.

Film and TV execs allege that the VOA miscalculated the numbers in its “draft list,” which may change before the tax hikes take effect from April.

The threat of significantly higher property tax bills comes at a sensitive time for the UK film and television sector. Studios have thrived thanks to the rise of streaming, but households are now cutting their subscriptions and content providers like Netflix are seeking tighter cost controls.

The industry wants the VOA to be more lenient on assessments, or the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to step in.

“We would be concerned about the impact if these came into force,” said Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission. However, he added that the industry has a “very open discussion” with the VOA and the DCMS supports the studios’ case.

Chris Berry, director and studio specialist at Surveyors Lambert Smith Hampton said: “To my knowledge they are [the VOA] have shown understanding for the topic and willingness to get involved.

“However, an unforeseen tax increase of this magnitude is clearly having a significant impact on the industry.”

Berry added that if passed, the increases would “have an impact on the much-needed development pipeline of film studios that we have worked hard to nurture” and “could threaten the UK’s competitiveness vis-à-vis other global production hubs”.

Each page is rated differently. As things stand, the combined total taxable value for film and television studios will more than double, according to calculations by consulting firm Altus, the largest overall increase of any type of property classification.

Property experts said there is less comparable data for TV and film studios than for more common property types such as retail and offices, making it difficult to assess.

Demand for filming space has risen since UK commercial property was last revalued at business rates six years ago.

The country has become a preferred location for global media corporations, boosted by tax breaks for productions. The largest and best-equipped studios are particularly scarce.

“The growth in streaming services and the attractiveness of production in the UK has led to an increase in rental values,” the VOA said. DCMS declined to comment.

Land occupied by such facilities is in demand by e-commerce retailers and logistics groups, further driving up asset prices.

But Robert Hayton, President of Altus in the UK, said “it’s hard to see what the justification is” for such large increases in the studios’ chargeable values.

Wootton said: “That’s a realization [the industry] is going incredibly well – no one wants to constrain that in any way and drive up costs that the industry can’t handle.”

The VOA added, “We encourage all rate payers to review their valuation and let us know if any information we have about their property is incorrect.” TV and film studios are threatening high property tax increases in the UK

Adam Bradshaw

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