Specialist R&D Tax & Grant Funding Advisors

Video Games Tax Relief - How to pass the BFI cultural test

Chris Dowsett

Business Analyst


What is Video Games Tax Relief?

Video Games Tax Relief offers an excellent tax relief incentive for UK video games developers, who can benefit by claiming back up to 20% of their production costs. Since coming into effect on 1st April 2014 over 480 games have collectively benefited to the tune of £230M due to VGTR.

To be eligible, the UK Video Game Development Company (VGDC) must be responsible for the majority of the planning, designing, developing, testing and producing of the game. At least 25% of the eligible cost must have been incurred within the European Economic Area

To be certified as a British video game (a key requirement of the VGTR claim) the game must pass a Cultural Test, which is administered by the British Film Institute (BFI). The test is based on points which are awarded across 4 sections, with applications needing to achieve 16 out of 31 available points to qualify as a British video game and therefore be eligible to claim VGTR.

Typically, most businesses will seek to apply for points in Section A – Cultural Content (which focuses on the game’s locations, characters, subject matter and dialogue.), Section C – Cultural Hubs (where work took place) and section D – Practitioners (where the development team are based), skipping Section B, Cultural Contribution. Section B is often skipped because, unlike the other 3 sections, Cultural Contribution is very subjective and open to interpretation. This uncertainty has caught out many applicants, resulting in lacklustre application and even delaying claims by up to 3 months.

To help your business avoid this issue, we’ve outlined some advice on how to complete section B, Cultural Contribution and maximise your VGTR claim.

Why is Cultural Contribution Important?

20 points can be gained from sections A & B, making it possible to pass the cultural test without the requirement for a costly accountant’s report, which is required if points are needed from sections C & D.

How to obtain points for Cultural Contribution:

Four points are up for grabs and are awarded on the following basis:

- Cultural Creativity: 1 point for significant representation/reflection of British culture through a creative and novel approach to video game making.

- Cultural Heritage: 1 point for significant representation/reflection of British Cultural Heritage.

- Cultural Diversity: Significant representation/reflection on British cultural diversity:

- 1 point for subject/portrayal

- 1 point for other factors impacting on the final content.

So how can you achieve these seemingly elusive points?

Cultural Creativity – The point will be awarded if the game’s portrayal of British culture comes from the developer’s creative approach.  Alternatively, the point can be gained if you can demonstrate British technical or creative innovations in gameplay, graphics, user interface, artificial intelligence or online/multiplayer functionality.

Cultural Heritage – To obtain this point the game needs to reflect British heritage, either events, person(s), movement or landmarks/landscape.  Events and people do not need to be set in the UK as long as they are relevant to British Culture, e.g World War 2.

Cultural Diversity – Points can be given if the game explores contemporary social and cultural issues, promoting on-screen diversity.  The point can also be awarded if you can demonstrate a diversity with the development team, e.g. Female Lead Designer, LGBT Lead Developer.

Two points will be awarded if the game can demonstrate it makes an outstanding contribution to these factors.  Clearly explaining and providing demonstrable evidence will be critical to highlight your case and maximises the points gained.

Maximising your application

All applications are initially submitted online via the BFI’s portal.  With over 17 pages this can be quite daunting for the uninitiated and incredibly time-consuming to complete correctly.  Engaging the services of a specialist such as Myriad Associates can:

- Ensure optimum points are claimed
- Save you time and remove the uncertainty of completing the complex application
- Myriad associates operate a no win no fee model, ensuring your financial risk is minimised, whilst optimising your BFI application and maximising your VGTR claim.

If you opt to manage your own application, the BFI’s guidance can be found here. They are also happy to provide outline advice on a per case basis.  However, they are unable to advise on maximising your entitlement to VGTR.

For more information on VGTR or to find out if you’re eligible, please contact us and we’ll get in touch. Our eligibility calls are free of charge and extremely beneficial for any business who is unsure about the VGTR scheme.

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