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The UK is offering tax relief, but only if your game is  really  British
The UK is offering tax relief, but only if your game is really British
December 11, 2012 | By Frank Cifaldi




The British government will begin a tax relief program for game developers starting this April, but unless your game has a British theme, you might have a hard time qualifying for it.

As we previously reported, the UK's finance ministry is set to offer one of the most generous tax reliefs for game development in the world for what it's calling "culturally British video games."

Exactly what that meant was unclear at the time, but on Tuesday the ministry unveiled the specifics of its "cultural test," which developers must pass in order to qualify.

Essentially, games are deemed "British" based on a points scale determined by a simple test. Of the 16 points required to pass, the biggest points are awarded if a game "is set in the United Kingdom or another EEA state," whether the lead characters in a game are British, if the game depicts "a British story," and if the majority of in-game dialogue is recorded in English.

Developers hoping to make games that don't necessarily have a clear geographical setting or, indeed, games without characters and story, may have a hard time meeting the requirements.

More details are available on this PDF, though we've reproduced the video game cultural test below:

(1) A video game may be certified as a British video game under section 1217CB(1) of the Act only if it passes the following cultural test.

(2) A video game passes the cultural test if it is awarded at least 16 points in total under paragraphs (3) to (6).

(3) Up to 16 points shall be awarded in respect of the content of the video game as follows—

(a) up to 4 points depending on the percentage of the video game that is set in the following locations–

(i) 4 points if at least 75% is set in the United Kingdom or another EEA state;
(ii) 3 points if at least 66% is set in the United Kingdom or another EEA state or set in an undetermined location;
(iii) 2 points if at least 50% is set in the United Kingdom or another EEA state or set in an undetermined location;
(iv) 1 point if at least 25% is set in the United Kingdom or another EEA state or set in an undetermined location;

(b) up to 4 points depending on the number of the characters depicted in the video game with the following characteristics–

(i) if there are more than three characters depicted in the video game, 4 points if two or three of the three lead characters are from the United Kingdom or another EEA state or from an undetermined location or, if only one of the three lead characters is from the United Kingdom or another EEA state or from an undetermined location, 2 points if that character is the first or second lead, 1 point if that character is the third lead;
(ii) if there are only three characters depicted in the video game, 4 points if two or three of them are from the United Kingdom or another EEA state or from an undetermined location or, if only one of them is from the United Kingdom or another EEA state or from an undetermined location, 2 points if that character is the first or second lead, 1 point if that character is the third lead;
(iii) if there are only two characters depicted in the video game, 4 points if both of them are from the United Kingdom or another EEA state or from an undetermined location, 2 points if one of them is;
(iv) if there is only one character depicted in the video game, 4 points if that character is from the United Kingdom or another EEA state or from an undetermined location;

(c) 4 points if the video game depicts a British story or a story which relates to an EEA state; (d) up to 4 points depending on the percentage of the original dialogue that is recorded in the English language or in a recognised regional or minority language as follows—

(i) 4 points for at least 75%;
(ii) 3 points for at least 66%;
(iii) 2 points for at least 50%;
(iv) 1 point for at least 25%.

(4) Up to 4 points may be awarded in respect of the contribution of the video game to the promotion, development and enhancement of British culture.

(5) Up to 3 points shall be awarded in respect of work carried out in the making of the video game as follows—

(a) 2 points if at least 50% of the work carried out on any of the following is carried out in the United Kingdom–

(i) conceptual development;
(ii) layout and storyboarding;
(iii) programming;
(iv) visual design;

(b) 1 point if at least 50% of the work carried out on any of the following is carried out in the United Kingdom–

(i) performing and recording the music score created for the video game;
(ii) voice recording;
(iii) audio production;
(iv) picture production.

(6) Up to 8 points shall be awarded in respect of the personnel involved in the making of the video game as follows–

(a) 1 point if the project leader (or, if there is more than one, the main project leader) is a qualifying person;
(b) 1 point if at least one of the scriptwriters (or, if there are more than three, one of the three lead scriptwriters) is a qualifying person;
(c) 1 point if the composer (or, if there is more than one, the lead composer) is a qualifying person;
(d) 1 point if the artist (or, if there is more than one, the lead artist) is a qualifying person;
(e) 1 point if the programmer (or, if there is more than one, the lead programmer) is a qualifying person;
(f) 1 point if the designer (or, if there is more than one, the lead designer) is a qualifying person;
(g) 1 point if at least one of the heads of department is a qualifying person;
(h) 1 point if at least 50% of the development team are qualifying persons.


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Comments


Rodolfo Rosini
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As many have pointed out already, there are very very few games that would have been considered 'British' under these rules. This is the government not having a clue and taking their movie credits scheme and replacing 'movie' with 'games' in the doc.

Morrison Cole
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I'm not convinced.

3 points if set in an undetermined location
4 points if your characters are from an undetermined location
3 points if at least 50% of the work is carried out in the UK
8 points if your development team from the UK

That's 18 points (you need 16 to qualify). What 'very very few games' games are you thinking of that don't qualify?

Basically the only games ruled out are those that explicitly feature existing foreign settings and characters from them. Even then you'd pretty much have to record the dialogue in a non-english dialect and hire a significant portion of foreign talent to lose the tax break.

These rules are very similar to the film industry, granted, but 'Captain America' qualified for UK tax breaks using that system. In addition, 'Arkham Asylum' qualifies for the games tax break - and that's also an American hero.

Alan Rimkeit
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Does Grand Theft Auto London count? :D

Lewis Wakeford
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I understand the points for making sure that the game was actually made in Britain and that some of the money it makes comes back to the British economy, but why are they bothered about the content of the game?

Brandon Van Every
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Presumably they don't want the UK game industry to disappear in the global marketplace. Noticeably British stuff is an advertizement that the UK is a stronghold of game development. This attracts investment and boosts the UK economy.

Nooh Ha
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Its more prosaic than this, Brandon. Its a requirement for the UK government to avoid falling foul of EU state aid restrictions (designed to keep intra EU markets genuinely competitive). They provide an exception to this restriction for products that are deemed culturally specific to the country providing the aid (and hence less uncompetitive to support while also promoting local cultures). The real test case and basis for the UK version was the French games tax relief which was introduced many years ago but faced extremely close scrutiny from the EU to ensure it met the cultural exception requirements.

Alexander Brandon
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Close your eyes and think of England. :)

Glenn Storm
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Developer: My game is _so_ British.
Chorus: How British is it?
Developer: It's so British ___________...

Justin Speer
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I would hope Warhammer 40K would get a pass here...

Merc Hoffner
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That's puzzle games out then? I guess there's no cultural value in anything abstract, huh.

Brandon Van Every
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Union Jack puzzle games...

Maria Jayne
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/facepalm

I wonder how Assassins Creed 3 would fare....does being populated by predominantly British soldiers you can slaughter count?

Patrick Lavelle
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This is an opportunity for someone to make the Ultimate British Game. (Dr Who & The Beatles vs. Monty Python)

k s
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I play a game about Dr. Who vs Monty Python (I never really got the whole Beatles thing).

WILLIAM TAYLOR
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@k s: You never got into the Beatles (understandable) or you never got that they were an insanely popular group with immense impact?

James Coote
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So the game I'm working on, which is a transport sim, currently doesn't have any characters in it. If I throw in a single token character and record a single line of dialogue in English by a British person, it should qualify for an extra 9 more points. Otherwise, it'd only score 12 points and fail to qualify, despite being 100% made in Britain

Rob B
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4 points recorded in english
3 points made in the uk
8 points if most of your team is uk

All of those make perfect sense for criteria for tax relief from the UK, it puts more UK staff to work so I see no complaint against those other than maybe too strong an emphasis on the sound.

So basically any game of any type needs to put in a single reference to the UK, or even just not put in a reference to somewhere else and they pass automatically. (That includes pretty much every puzzle game, made in UK and nondescript setting. They all pass.)

This is a mild nudge towards making your games more British and Im not going to lose any sleep over whos getting a tax break here. The melodrama of it excluding everything and wiping out genres of games for consideration is just nonsense as can plainly be seen.

A S
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Yeah, it's pretty forgiving. Basically you have the choice of producing your game in the UK, or making it about the UK. Both of these seem pretty logical for the British government to encourage.

Ramin Shokrizade
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I'm reminded of Civilization culture spread, with the UK government paying to buy another tile in the IM industry. Compared to the map of the world before WW2, this has to be the ultimate "swords to plowshares" example.

Alan Wilson
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Hey - this means that Killing Floor is a BRITISH game! Yay us :)

Diana Hsu
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This is highly amusing to me.

Jeff Morin
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Screw that. How would that make games any better.

Nooh Ha
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its a real shame that the author did not bother to explain WHY the UK government HAS TO impose these cultural restrictions (see my earlier reply for an explanation) - it would have answered the majority of questions posed here. Hint: it has nothing to do with making better games or subsidising every game made in the UK. Its not even about improving the UK economy (although the tax credit ultimately aims to do this). It is entirely about EU state aid regulations and is a necessity.

Jakub Majewski
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Hmm. So, instead of just giving the games industry an unfair advantage over other industries in the country, they demand that a set of conditions be fulfilled to justify the British government granting them tax breaks?

Why, the bastards - how DARE they not give us a free ride?!

If anything doesn't make sense about this, it's that "or EEC" bit. Presumably, that's needed to avoid an intra-EU trade dispute, but effectively, it means that a game set in Iceland, Norway, Switzerland or any EU country is "culturally British". That's nonsensical indeed. If only they had been able to find some way to include the Commonwealth and keep the EU out of their definition of "British"...

Steve Cawood
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I'm not going to waste my time with this. Managed so far without their help.


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