Proposal to link tax break for film production to stronger workers’ rights fails

Government TDs vote down attempts to amend budget legislation that will increase cap for qualifying expenditure on films to €125 million

Attempts by Opposition parties to link the tax break for film productions in Ireland to stronger workers’ rights have failed.

Plans to increase the cap on qualifying expenditure in the Section 481 Film Tax Credit from €70 million to €125 million were announced in last month’s Budget.

Sinn Féin, the Labour Party and People Before Profit all tabled amendments to the Finance Bill seeking to strengthen terms and conditions for workers employed by film companies accessing the tax relief.

None of the amendments were passed in votes at the Committee on Finance on Wednesday.


Speaking at the meeting Minister for Finance Michael McGrath acknowledged that work in the film industry is “irregular” and “can be precarious” for many in the sector.

However, he said a stakeholder forum being established by Minister for Culture Catherine Martin and engagement between the workers and film companies on what the terms and conditions should be is the way to make progress.

“What I don’t want to do is meddle with the Finance Bill in a way that would undermine the central purpose of what we’re trying to do.

“We are increasing the cap which will create more activity, more opportunity.

“There are issues that we need to continue to work on but the Finance Bill is not the appropriate vehicle for doing so”.

Sinn Féin’s amendment sought to ensure that a condition of the tax relief be that companies should ensure Irish performers, writers and others would not be subject to lesser terms and conditions on intellectual property rights than workers from outside the jurisdiction working on the same film.

Another condition Sinn Féin proposed would be that film companies would not require artists to sign away rights to future residual payments for their work or agree to a so-called ‘buyout’ contract as a precondition of working on the production.

Sinn Féin TD Aonghus Ó Snodaigh told the committee there are situations where some workers contracted through companies in the North are working side-by-side on the same film with workers from the south on different terms and conditions.

Labour’s amendment sought to strengthen the definition of “quality employment” that must be provided by a film company in order to qualify for the tax relief including a condition that it takes into account international comparisons on the employment being well remunerated with reasonable job security.

The party’s finance spokesman Ged Nash said he believed all of the committee members support the cap being increased to €125 million due to the potential for the film sector to develop as a result.

However, he said: the best way of addressing issues in the industry is “for the principle to be conceded by the minister that there should be no cash without conditions.”

People Before Profit’s amendment called for the Government to outline within three months how it will implement recommendations on “ensuring quality employment and training” made in a Budgetary Oversight Committee report on the Section 481 tax relief.

One of its TDs, Richard Boyd Barrett, told the meeting there is “an obligation to make sure that the conditions of 481 are being met in terms of quality employment and training”.

He also referred to recent controversies at national broadcaster RTÉ highlighting the issue of bogus self-employment that is being “rectified” saying there was “a serious problem in governance.”

Mr Boyd Barrett said; “The problems in the film industry are multiples of that because there is no governance.”

He told Mr McGrath: “if you don’t want another RTÉ blowing up in your face, if you don’t want what’s happening in the United States with a strike [by actors] ... I seriously suggest you start to listen ... and to do something about this.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times