Spain Talks Up New 70% Tax Break

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One of the film industry’s biggest growth sectors, the international location shoot scene, looks set to impact Toronto on Saturday at a Spain Film Commission breakfast.

Among attractions tabled at the meet with Canadian producers will be Spain’s extraordinary landscapes and heritage sites and a new shoot incentive which ranks among the highest in the world.

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From Jan. 1, 2023 Spain’s Bizkaia looks set to offer an up-to-70% tax credit for foreign and national shoots lensing in the Basque province. Notably, the incentive has no cap at all.

The tax break forms part of a ramp up of Spain’s big international shoot scene. “House of the Dragon” has returned to islet San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, “Game of Thrones’” Dragonstone. In general, foreign shoots are flocking to Spain, spending €263 million ($263 million) there in 2021, double the 2016-19 average, according to a study by the country’s ProFilm line producers assn.

That spike came after Spanish authorities raised ceilings on incentives to $10 million per title, rising to $18 million in the Canary Islands.

But tax break rates are one thing. As important for big foreign productions is the legal certainty that they will be paid. In the case of Bizkaia, the new credit has received approval from E.U. authorities. It is also championed by the Bizkaia government, which handles its own tax collection.

“The idea is to leverage tax incentives to strengthen our culture and film industries, where we think we have a lot to offer, attract outside companies and promote our variety of settings to the world. We have a lot to gain there,” said Ainara Basurko, Bizkaia head of economic promotion.

The up-to-70% incentive, depending on how much of a movie’s budget is spent in Bizkaia, comes after “Game of Thrones” turned San Juan into a major tourist destination.

Little wonder that the new incentives carry a cultural test, which can be met by showing to the world Bizkaia’s eye-arresting settings, which include Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, seen in James Bond’s “The World Is Not Enough.”

“The dimension of the new tax break, one of the best in the world, puts us in a very competitive place globally,” said

Carlos Juárez, president of the Association of Basque Producers, told Variety.

Biskaia investors are rallying round the incentive, he added.  “Game of Thrones worked like a wake-up call. The idea of investing in film and TV is now far more normal,” Juárez observed.

The Bizkaia tax break also points to a revolution in governmental attitudes towards film and TV. Just a few decades ago, film was an afterthought. Now Spanish series and movies have taken the world by storm. Juárez himself produced 2019 Toronto sensation, numbing futuristic allegory “El Hoyo” (“The Platform”), the second most-watched foreign-language movie ever on Netflix.

Lensed on location in and around Bilbao’s –  at its real life Town Hall or near its spectacular Anboto limestone mountain –  “Intimacy” shot to No. 1 in the world this June among Netflix non-English language series.

“Biskaia has been generating talent, there’s industry infrastructure, different landscapes and historic sites. It would be attractive even without an incentive,” said Juárez.

In March 2021, Spain’s central government announced a Spain AVS Plan to plow $1.6 billion into Spain’s film-TV sectors

as part of its recuperation plan from pandemic. Canary Islands already offer up-to-50% incentives.

Other parts of Spain can now be expected to follow Bizkaia and the Canaries, observed Deloitte’s Alfonso del Real.

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