UKRG Event: “Kanwe, Acquirem & Howe LLP!”: Museums, acquisitions and the Law
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, Friday 21st April 2017
Talk: Update on Museums & Galleries Tax Relief, Alison Turnbull, Head of Research & Development, Museums Galleries Scotland and Janice Slater, Head of Collections Management, National Galleries Scotland
Kicking off the Friday afternoon conference was the rather heavy topic of tax incentives, sometimes referred to as “exhibition tax credit”. My first thought was that I was grateful this was the first session not the last! As the session begun it was delivered in a nice double act by Alison and Janice who were part of a consultancy on this incentive before it was released in April 2017 for parliamentary approval. Essentially, this tax scheme allows museums to claim back a percentage of their core exhibition activity costs from HMRC up to a ceiling of £80,000 for non-touring exhibitions and £100,000 for touring exhibitions.

The tone was light and conversational. The two speakers did a brilliant job of breaking down the rather complex topic, extracting the key paragraphs from the full HMRC document and reading out key areas of phrasing. It was an information-heavy talk, but to be honest, there is no other way to deliver detailed outlines on new schemes. Each section was delivered in bitesize chunks with a succinct and insightful PowerPoint summary.
It quickly became clear that much of the information about this new scheme had been rolled out to Heads of Finance and Directors of institutions, but Alison and Janice made it very clear the importance of the implementers and exhibition organisers having a good awareness and knowledge of this scheme. As registrars our thorough documentation skills are a matter of pride, but there was a useful point about extracting the financial data into a useable and easy format to facilitate the application process for colleagues in other departments.
Much of the session was dedicated to discussing ideas around training and information-sharing events across the registration sector. There was a general consensus that these would be welcomed and people were invited to send ideas of how this could work to both Alison ([email protected]) and Janice ([email protected]), as well as general questions about the scheme at this stage. The real engagement and commitment from those involved in the initial consultancy seems second-to-none, and the whole room was interested to be involved in any training.

For museum professionals, once the project is rolled out serious work will begin to make the scheme doable for the widest variety of museums across the sector. Although both the scheme and the potential CPD events are in very early stages it seems this is a great potential tool for increasing the affordability and calibre of shows for a broader range of museums and galleries.
Interestingly, this bill has now been deferred at parliament until after the upcoming general election to allow the major parties to offer comments and discuss amendments. I feel much of the museum sector will be watching with baited breath, but what this means in real terms is that we may not see any benefits from the scheme until 2018. So watch this space….!

Joanne Smith, Tate