ABOLISH THE AUSTRALIA COUNCIL - QUESTION MARK
By Derek Strahan BA Cantab (Modern Languages, French & Spanish)
Part 5 - TYING UP LOOSE ENDS
COMPARISONS WITH METHODS FOR FUNDING FILM
PROPOSAL FOR A REGISTER OF PRIMARY CREATORS
In Point 1, I suggested that, at present, it is pointless for an individual creative artist to go into the community to try and seek out old-fashioned individual patronage. Why is this so? Because unless he or she is able to offer a tax benefit in return for such support, it will not be forthcoming. Not when a tax benefit can be obtained by directing a donation through a Registered Arts Body.
All support for the arts in Australia is made on the basis that it will be tax deductible, unless it is in the form of business sponsorship, which falls under a different section of the Tax Act. This section enables the sponsors to be named. Individual creative artists can only benefit from tax-deductible funding through the auspices of an arts organisation, or through trusts bodies, or foundations, and the only access to the decision-making processes of these bodies is through committees, which only accept donations for general purposes. You will find some useful background reading on this topic "THE ECONOMIC DISEMPOWERMENT OF AUSTRALIAN COMPOSERS", an article which was originally published in the Journal of the Fellowship of Australian Composers in 1997, now posted on this website.
The reason why individual artists cannot offer a tax benefit in return for support is because the Australian Tax Office does not permit a directed donation from one individual to another to attract a tax benefit.
You can understand why. It would be rorted! Just as funding for film was rorted from 1982, when the so-called 10BA tax incentives were introduced.
The new system did break the monopoly on decision-making which the Australian Film Commission then held, and new ideas, good and bad poured forth. The film industry was reinvigorated. But 10BA had to be modified, because above-the-line personnel were rorting budgets, and pocketing huge fees before any money was spent on your actual film production.
Sometimes up to half the budget was not going up on the screen. It was going on legal fees and on large numbers of associate producers. It was a scandal.
10BA funding has survived, and private sector funding for film still happens. So there is now one major difference between funding for film and for all other art forms.
Film funding is investment based.
But in other areas of the arts it is donation based.
There are strong arguments to be made in favour of applying the methods of film funding to all arts. Further discussion on that topic can be found in another article published in the Journal of the Fellowship of Australian Composers in 1999, now posted on this website: "Creaky Machinery" - a comparison of the assessment methods of the Australia Council and the Australian Film Commission, and of the different funding methods
Similarly, discussion on a proposal to set up a "Register of Primary Creators" - or, if you like, Individual Creative Artists. This can also be found at this website. This proposal is an attempt to devise a system for funding individual artists that could not be rorted because it would be closely regulated and monitored.
So, to recap:- the Australian Tax Office is absolutely correct to be extremely cautious about any scheme allowing direct funding to individual art workers. However, you may be surprised to know that it is not totally forbidden.
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