Crippled by colossal tax rates and falling ticket sales, the Spanish cultural sector is taking creative action to cut its tax bill, including one theatre which has changed its main business to pornography to avoid having to pay high taxes.
The tax charged on cultural performances in Spain has shot up from eight to twenty-one percent since 2011 as the government attempts to balance the books, and has drawn a broader range of products into the local VAT-like ‘sales tax’. Some have noted the uneven application of the new higher taxes, which have hit high culture but not erotica and magazines.
Theatre director Karina Garantivá said: “It’s scandalous when cultural heritage is being taxed at 21 percent and porn at only at 4 percent. Something is wrong”. Her company, which performs works by the “Spanish Shakespeare” Pedro Calderón de la Barca has decided to circumvent the new, punitive taxes by registering as a distributor of pornographic magazines – and is offering free performances.
Punters buying €16 worth of hardcore-swingers magazine Gente Libre from the company receive a ‘free’ ticket to a performance of the highly regarded 17th century comic drama El Mágico Prodigioso.
Garantivá said the law as it stands made theatres feel as if they were “in a straitjacket, suffocated”, and that “We want people to ask what kind of a society makes this kind of decision. That they compare pornography and Calderón … and reach their own conclusions”.
On what they wanted from the government, Garantivá seemed to have taken a leaf out of British chancellor George Osborne and culture secretary Sajid Javid who announced new measures for the arts in the budget this week. Instead of following the example of previous governments and giving away further taxpayer money to uncompetitive arts companies, they revealed tax breaks for orchestras and other creative organisations.
Garantivá said: “We don’t want subsidies, we are a private initiative. The best subsidies are fiscal measures that don’t prevent me from doing my work”.
Bloomberg reports that after the recent hikes, Spain has become the second highest cultural taxing nation in Europe. The consequence of this is clear to see: box office sales at Spanish theatres are down 14 percent since 2008, and the number of performances is down a quarter.
Although the company is presently selling second-hand pornography to escape tax, they may produce their own to sell in future, as their present stock is only 300 magazines. Doing so would be “a stand against the government”, said the director.