Country Focus: Belgium
Tax deductions: a win-win situation for the state and the audiovisual sector
by Aurore Engelen
Its objective was to encourage films to be (co-)produced in Belgium. In short, a production company wishing to invest in supporting an audiovisual production is granted a deduction of their taxable income worth 150% of the amount invested, with the added bonus of also having taken part in an artistic project of great scope. For the producer, it means a new, welcome extra source of funding. As for the Belgian state, it hoped that substantial economic and cultural returns would help to structure and develop the sector.
A study conducted by Deloitte and the Belgian studio uMedia, based on a review of over 90 films supported between 2003 and 2011, has just proven that the mechanism has been a great success in all areas.
This sums it up: For each €1 "lost" via tax deductions, the state makes €1.21 in economic returns. The Belgian state has made up to €77m in net gains. Since the Tax Shelter was launched, the number of jobs in the audiovisual sector has leaped by 23%. The sector's gross margin has increased by 75%. Even more impressive, the number of films produced in Belgium during this period went up by 250%.
Belgium is very high up in the European ranking for majority productions per inhabitants (3 per 1 million inhabitants, i.e. a tiny bit less than for France), and is first for co-productions per inhabitants (4.7 per 1 million inhabitants, far ahead of Denmark with 1.3 per million and France with 0.9 per million).
This improvement is also seen in the quality of the films produced. Observers will have noted that for several years now, Belgian films have stood out among the winners of international film festivals. This is reflected in the figures, with 49% more awards won by Belgium since 2003.
In a time when professionals want to review and improve the mechanism, it must be noted that the latter has earned itself a structural, unavoidable place in the Belgian audiovisual sector.