The policy column

Alistair Brown, Issue 116/11, p17, 01.11.2016
Taxing times ahead
Museums across the UK could soon be the grateful recipients of a rebate for the exhibitions that they put on – a chunk of cash that they can claim back from the taxman, making exhibitions cheaper. Or at least that’s the idea.

The Treasury has set out proposals this autumn for a tax credit worth about £25m a year, which can be claimed only on “temporary and touring exhibitions” – those that last fewer than 12 months or go on tour. However, this is turning out to be a problem for many small and medium-sized museums, whose main outlays are not expensive temporary exhibitions, but occasional redisplays and exhibitions that run for longer than a year.

A tax credit that applies only to time-limited exhibitions would primarily support the type of exhibitions that the nationals and larger regional museums can put on. Yet, as we have seen in recent months, the museums in greatest need of extra public support are those with much smaller budgets.

At the very least, the proposed tax credit should be made to work for as many museums as possible. For example, the Treasury could apply the relief to permanent exhibitions for smaller museums, and could do so at little extra cost, given the long timeframes and modest budgets that most museums have for this work.

That’s why we’re arguing for a fairer scheme that works for all museums.