Osborne accused of snobbery over pipe band tax snub

Pipe bands, under Budget proposals, have been exempted from tax relief offered to orchestras. Picture: Colin Hattersley
Pipe bands, under Budget proposals, have been exempted from tax relief offered to orchestras. Picture: Colin Hattersley
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GEORGE Osborne has been accused of “cultural snobbery” after it emerged that pipe bands will be excluded from a new tax break for orchestras.

The tax relief, which begins in April 2016, will give touring orchestras 25 per cent tax relief on production costs and orchestras based at a fixed venue 20 per cent.

Pipe Major John Simpson leads his pipe band at Edinburgh Castle. Picture: Colin Hattersley

Pipe Major John Simpson leads his pipe band at Edinburgh Castle. Picture: Colin Hattersley

But the definition of an orchestra appears to exclude pipe bands.

The Treasury guidance states: “To qualify, the majority of performances for which relief is being claimed must be played by a musical ensemble consisting of 14 or more performers and must include players drawn from each of the following four sections: string instruments, woodwind instruments, brass instruments and percussion instruments.”

Pipe bands only have wind and percussion sections, which means they will receive no aid from the government.

The same problem also arises for traditional brass bands.

The exclusion led to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) claiming that there is a strong whiff of “cultural snobbery” about the way this tax relief is being planned.

The organisation said: “We are concerned that targeting it at a particular combination of performers, playing a particular type of music in a particular environment, is unfair and may even be discriminatory.

“The definitions will be almost impossible to legislate and will be unworkable and the need to try to satisfy the definitions may stifle the very creativity the relief seeks to support as orchestras adjust to make sure they meet the criteria for relief.”

A Scottish Labour source said: “George Osborne droned on for nearly an hour, but now we know that his tax credit for orchestras won’t apply to pipe bands. This tax break will disproportionately help London and the South East. By restricting it so significantly, the Government have cut out Scotland’s many pipers and traditional music players. This is a significant blow.”

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