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How British Is British? The Rules For UK Tax Relief

Gor Blimey Guvn'r

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With last week’s Autumn statement giving UK games developers a long-fought-for tax break, details are now available about who will be eligible. This test is in response to European laws that are necessary for such breaks to be put in place, and at first appears to require that the games and the teams in question have some elusive notion of Britishness. Um… you like curry with chips? But when you see what the words actually say, it seems it’s not really a test for Britishness at all.

So the way it works, as divulged by Develop, is a project must score 16 points in the test criteria. And of course they’re clear and simple… No, they’re a muddle. These are those criteria – get out your score sheet:

(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.

To clarify, an “EEA state” is anywhere that falls into the European Economic Area. So really, despite the daft claims that this is a test for Britishness, your game could be entirely set in the south of Romania or the snowy mountains of Norway, and be considered “British” enough to qualify. Or indeed if it were set in anonymous space. Or on the bottom of my shoe. Or in Fairy Happy Land.

And of course this can be gamed to mean you need not actually employ anyone from Britain or Europe to qualify, say if you set 75% of your game in Europe, have more than four EU characters, tell a story based on a European country, and have it in English. So, well, a World War 2 shooter then.

I’m not entirely sure what a “qualifying person” is, but I’m guessing an EEA resident. So really, you could have a game made by no one with British citizenship, not featuring any British characters, not set in Britain, and still qualify for this Britishness test. If anything, it seems to be a “Not American Nor Japanese Test”.

Very strange business, but at least it doesn’t mean some ghastly flag-waving nonsense, and games required to be set in Hove, in order to qualify.

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John Walker

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One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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