Can a UK limited company be formed for the purpose of film production, and what are the incentives?

11 June 2024

In the British film industry, there are various incentives designed to attract international productions to the UK. One of these is the option to form a limited company specifically for the purpose of film production. But what exactly does this involve, how can a company qualify, and what are the associated benefits? In this article, we'll delve into these questions and shed light on the key elements you should understand.

Setting Up a UK Limited Company for Film Production

The formation of a limited company in the UK for the purpose of film production is a strategic move that can yield numerous benefits. Whether you're a seasoned production company or an independent filmmaker looking to benefit from the British creative industry's incentives, establishing a limited company could be the right choice for your next project.

Setting up a limited company involves registering with Companies House, selecting directors and shareholders, and defining the company's articles of association. The process typically costs a small fee and can be completed within a few hours online. Once formed, the company will act as a separate legal entity, providing protection to its owners from any potential financial liability.

This setup becomes particularly beneficial in the case of film production, as it allows the company to claim certain tax reliefs and grants that are exclusive to the UK film industry.

British Film Production Tax Relief

One of the primary incentives for forming a UK limited company for film production is the opportunity to claim Film Production Company Tax Relief (FTR). Essentially, this is a tax credit that can be claimed on the core expenditure of film productions that qualify as British, according to the British Film Institute's cultural test.

To be eligible for this relief, at least 10% of the core expenditure must be spent on activities within the UK, and the film must pass a cultural test or qualify through an international film co-production agreement. The benefit of this relief is that it allows the film production company to claim a cash rebate of up to 25% of qualifying UK expenditure.

The FTR is a significant financial incentive that can support your company's cash flow and reduce the overall cost of production. However, it's crucial to understand the application process and requirements to ensure you can take full advantage of this relief.

International Co-Production Agreements and Cultural Test

The international co-production agreements and the cultural test are central to claiming the FTR. They determine whether a film qualifies as a British production, which is a prerequisite for claiming the tax relief.

The UK currently has co-production treaties with over 50 countries worldwide. These treaties allow films that are jointly produced by companies in the UK and these countries to qualify for the FTR, even if less than 10% of the core expenditure is incurred in the UK.

On the other hand, the cultural test is a points-based system administered by the British Film Institute (BFI). It assesses the film's cultural content, cultural contribution, cultural hubs, and cultural practitioners. A film needs to score at least 18 out of a possible 35 points to pass the test and qualify for the FTR.

Core Expenditure and How to Maximise Tax Relief

Understanding what counts as core expenditure is crucial for maximising your claim for tax relief. Core expenditure refers to the costs directly incurred in making a film. This includes pre-production, principal photography, and post-production costs. However, it does not cover non-production related costs such as marketing and distribution.

It's also important to note that the FTR is calculated on the basis of UK core expenditure, up to a maximum of 80% of the total core expenditure on the film. This means that if your film's total core expenditure exceeds the cap, you won't be able to claim additional relief beyond this limit.

A strategic approach to managing your film's production costs can help maximise your tax relief. This might involve planning your production activities to increase the proportion of costs that qualify as UK core expenditure, or seeking advice from industry consultants who can help you navigate the complexities of the tax relief system.

Access to UK Film Funds and Grants

Beyond tax incentives, forming a UK limited company for film production also opens up access to various film funds and grants. These funding opportunities, such as the BFI Film Fund or the ScreenSkills Film Skills Fund, are designed to support the production of films that reflect the richness and diversity of British culture.

Eligibility requirements for these funds vary. However, they typically consider factors such as the film's potential cultural impact, its alignment with British values, and the diversity and talent development initiatives of the production company.

In a fiercely competitive industry, these funds can provide a significant boost to a production's budget and contribute to the success of the film. Therefore, it's worth investigating these possibilities when considering setting up a UK limited company for film production.

How to Form a Limited Production company in the UK

If you've identified the UK as the appropriate location for your film production, the process of forming a limited company is straightforward and quick. The first step is to register your company with Companies House, the official UK government agency responsible for incorporating and dissolving companies. This registration process requires a payment of a small fee and the provision of some basic company information, such as the company name, the address of the registered office, and details of the company directors and shareholders.

Secondly, you'll need to create the company's articles of association. These are legal documents that set out the rules about how your company is run. They should include details on how decisions are made, the roles and responsibilities of directors, and procedures for issuing and transferring shares.

Once these steps are completed, your company is considered a separate legal entity. It is protected by limited liability, meaning the financial liability of shareholders is limited to their shares. This arrangement provides significant protection to the owners in case the film production encounters financial problems.

Taxation and the Limited Company

Once your limited company is established, you'll need to consider the tax implications. In the UK, limited companies are required to pay corporation tax on their profits. This is currently set at 19%, but it's worth checking the latest rates as they can change.

However, film production companies can take advantage of tax reliefs that can significantly reduce this tax burden. One of the main reliefs is the Film Production Company Tax Relief (FTR). This tax credit can be claimed on the majority of the production costs, including pre-production, principal photography, and post-production costs.

To claim this tax relief, a film must qualify as a British film. This involves passing a cultural test administered by the British Film Institute or qualifying through an international co-production agreement. The film must also meet at least 10% of core expenditure within the UK to be eligible.


Forming a UK Limited Company for the purpose of film production can provide numerous benefits to international and domestic producers. The British film industry offers attractive incentives, such as the Film Production Company Tax Relief, to encourage film productions in the UK.

The process of setting up a limited company is straightforward, but it's crucial to understand the tax implications and requirements related to claiming tax reliefs. It's also recommended to seek advice from industry consultants or tax experts to navigate the complexities of the tax relief system and maximise your benefits.

Furthermore, forming a UK limited company for film production opens access to various film funds and grants, providing additional financial support to your project. However, bear in mind that these funding opportunities have their own eligibility requirements, often focusing on the film's potential cultural impact and the diversity and talent development initiatives of the production company.

In conclusion, while forming a UK limited company for film production requires careful planning and a good understanding of the British film industry's incentives, it could be a highly strategic and beneficial move for your next film project.

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