British Orchestras Saved from Huge Tax Bill

Classic Arts News   British Orchestras Saved from Huge Tax Bill
U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has stepped in to save British orchestras from paying a calamitous Ô£33 million in employment taxes, a bill which would have forced many to close.

The Guardian of London reports that, after investigating the tax liabilities of orchestras employing freelance musicians, U.K. tax authorities advised Brown that they do not have to pay national insurance contributions for self-employed musicians (who form the backbone of many ensembles) — thus averting both the enormous back tax liability and annual future bills of Ô£6 million.

The decision has been met with relief by British orchestras, whether they rely heavily on freelancers or not.

Kathryn McDowell, managing director of the London Symphony Orchestra, told the Guardian, "That's very good news. We didn't have a figure of how much this could have cost us. But it is money that would have been taken away from our artistic activities, and it would also have seriously affected fundraising."

John Summers, chief executive of Manchester's Hall_ Orchestra, which mostly uses salaried players, told the paper, "This is great news. Our liability could have been in six figures, so this makes a huge difference to us. It would have been nonsensical to collect this; it could have put some orchestras out of business."

Gordon Brown has voiced strong support for the arts; he and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell recently launched a Ô£12 million program aiming to find and train future cultural leaders. Brown was quoted in the British press as saying the arts sector is "not a sideshow but right at the center of the economy."

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