Britain woos ‘Wallace and Gromit’ creators with corporate tax breaks

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Britain woos ‘Wallace and Gromit’ creators with corporate tax breaks

LONDON - Britain will introduce tax credits for the animation industry to help keep the creators of shows such as “Wallace and Gromit” in the country, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said Wednesday.

George Osborne announced corporate tax breaks for television, animation and video game producers from April 2013 in a bid to “turn Britain into Europe’s technology center.”

“It is the determined policy of this government that we keep ‘Wallace and Gromit’ exactly where they are,” Osborne told lawmakers as he unveiled his annual budget to the House of Commons.

The comment doubled as a jibe about opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has often been compared to the cheese-loving inventor Wallace by cartoonists and sketch writers, and raised roars of laughter.

Aardman, the animation company that created the character and his canine sidekick Gromit, said in November it was considering moving abroad because Britain was too expensive.

Several big-budget British TV programmes have also been filmed abroad in recent months to take advantage of foreign tax incentives.

A small-screen drama about the sinking of the Titanic, written by the creator of the hit period drama “Downton Abbey,” was filmed in Canada and Hungary, while the BBC series “Birdsong” was also shot in Hungary.

Production companies had been lobbying the government to introduce tax incentives for them to stay.

“The film tax credit, protected in our spending review, helped generate over £1 billion ($1.6 billion) of film production investment in the U.K. last year alone,” said Osborne.

The chancellor said he hoped similar incentives for the television and video game industries would attract producers to Britain.

“Not only will this help stop premium British TV programmes like ‘Birdsong’ being made abroad, it will also attract top international investors like Disney and HBO to make more of their premium shows in the U.K.,” he said.

The planned tax breaks will be subject to consultation and must comply with laws on state aid.

Britain is the world’s second-largest exporter of television programmes in the world after the U.S., with annual exports worth £1.3 billion, according to the U.K. Film Council. AFP

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