Financing solutions and models continue to be sought after in the Canadian film television and animation tax credit financing area. Additionally other working capital solutions for Canadian productions in this area are also available and generally less known as to their existence and their ability to assist productions of Canadian content.
Early in 2010, as is by now well known by most players in the industry, the Canadian government at both the federal and provincial level ‘super charged ‘ tax credit grants and incentives. Rates and credits increased for specified expenditures by as much as 5-10 per cent in most areas of these tax credits. Additionally a fund was even creating for Intellectual property, with a projected funding of ten million dollars.
Productions with Canadian content are aggressively being produced and savvy principals in Canada are both taking advantage of these credits, and also financing them on an interim basis, or on completion.
A combination of private investing, government non repayable tax credits and even some participation by Canadian banks create a ‘tour de force ‘of financing assistance for Canadian content. Although a significant previous factor in Canadian growth was the cheaper Canadian dollar even the dollar at par now has not hindered Canadian productions in all three key areas, film, television, and digital animation. (And let’s not forgot those lesser known sisters – book publishing and music!)
Productions in Canada are of course financing in the same manner as almost anywhere else – equity by owners, tax credits, loans, and distribution deals. The most recent tax credit incentives in effect replace film tax shelters of previous days. In our opinion this method is more transparent, available, and takes a lot of the negativity associated with ‘tax shelters ‘.
So how do principals access tax credits and how can these tax credits be financed. Did you also know that financing is available on an interim basis also, so for properly documented productions you can obtain interim financing assistance that in many cases becomes a key up front component of your financing and will allow you to complete your project more advantageously from a financial perspective?
What are the basics of this type of financing – let’s review them. To say that film, TV and animation financing is a boutique industry in Canada is of course an understatement. For that reason we strongly recommend that you work with and speak to an experienced and knowledgeable adviser in this area. To access financing you must ensure your project or projects are eligible to be certified for any one or more of the six major tax credits that are available, for example, in Ontario. (We will use Ontario as our example, but each province has similar regimes to assist yourselves.) You should ensure you have created a single special purpose entity, essentially the legal shell under which your production or project will be qualified.
Carefully choose which credits you are eligible for, and ensure you apply for proper certification as soon as possible. Improper or incomplete certification only (as in any business financing process) slows down and stalls your tax credit and the ability to finance it.
Maintain proper disbursement and payroll records – we strongly recommend to clients that they use a specialized accountant or firm in this area. If you can demonstrate your background and experience, have proper certification in process, and are committed to document the project through completion by proper filing of tax returns and financials your tax credit can be financed as immediately as when it is accepted and provided to your project. If you seek interim financing for the same project, and are committed to maintaining and demonstrating the quality in the key fundamental areas noted above you are eligible for accrual financing, or cash flow and working capital assistance immediately even prior to the certification of your project(S).
In summary, ‘Hollywood North’ appears to be booming again. The economy has picked up, consumers want entertainment in all key sectors, and even the Canadian dollar has not deterred investment in production. Tax credits have increased, and even better yet, by working with the proper experienced partner your credits can be financing when they are certified, or even earlier if you can document a strong go forward action plan on disbursements, payroll, and your experience in this great area of the Canadian economy. And by the way, speaking to an expert in area doesn’t hurt – extra tips and assistance may be worth thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash flow and working capital for your projects!