Czech Republic approves new tax rebate

Scheme goes into effect Jan. 1

BERLIN -- Prague has caught up with the rest of Europe in the tax rebate game after the Czech government this week approved a 20% tax break scheme for productions shooting in the country.

The scheme is set to go into effect January 1, 2010, pending approval by the Czech president and the European Commission.

For the first year, the fund will provide 400 million Czech Koruna, about $23 million, in rebates on a first come first serve basis. Projects looking for support will have to have 75% of their budget in place and pass a Czech cultural test similar to that required for the German or Hungarian rebate schemes. Producers will also be required to have a Czech co-producer on board.

"We have been fighting for this for years. This program is exactly what is needed to bring production back to Prague," said Jasmina Torbati, a board member of Czech producers association APA and managing director of Centralscope, the Prague-based production company controlled by Germany's Studio Babelsberg.

Prague was once the go-to location for big Hollywood productions shooting abroad. But the lack of a tax incentive scheme and competing programs in neighboring Germany and Hungary hurt the Czech industry. Local production has held steady but the Czech film industry as a whole has collapsed, with revenues down some 85% last year as big international productions went elsewhere.

Czech producers hope the new 20% tax rebate will be the first step in reversing that trend.