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Rishi Sunak urged to cancel “hugely damaging” VAT rise on gig tickets

VAT for live events is currently at 12.5 per cent, but is planned to rise to 20 per cent on April 1

By Will Richards

Rishi Sunak delivers his 2021 budget
Rishi Sunak. (Credit: Paul Marriott / Alamy Stock Photo)

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been urged by music industry experts to cancel a planned VAT hike for gig tickets that could prove “hugely damaging”.

On April 1, Sunak plans to raise the VAT rate on tickets for live events from 12.5 per cent to 20 per cent in a move that the industry fears will lead to increases in ticket prices and create further issues around the re-emergence of live music post-COVID.

In an open letter to Sunak ahead of his spring 2022 forecast – dubbed a “mini-budget” and set to arrive on March 23 – UK Music boss Jamie Njoku-Goodwin has called on the Chancellor to abandon the VAT hike. It comes as part of a six-point plan from the organisation, which also includes extending the 50 per cent discount on business rates for music venues, setting up a UK Music Export Office and increasing help for the self-employed.

Njoku-Goodwin wrote to Sunak: “The planned hike in VAT could not come at a worse time for millions of music fans and the live music industry, which was shut down for almost two years due to the pandemic.

“We saw during those grim periods of lockdown just how important music was to people’s mental health and how it helped us get through some really tough times.”

A crowd enjoys a live gig
(Picture: Pexels)

The message continued: “Pushing up VAT to 20% would be hugely damaging for the music industry and leave music fans facing a cost of gigging crisis. The rise would come at a time when we are rebuilding post-COVID-19, with hundreds of concerts planned over the next few months.

“We would urge the Chancellor to give people who already face rising prices and grim headlines every day a little lift by ditching the ticket tax and abandoning the VAT hike.

“Dumping the planned VAT hike would help keep ticket prices down for fans and help music businesses pay down debts they built up during the pandemic, generate thousands of new jobs and nurture new talent.

“It would help the music industry continue to recover and rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic, which wiped out around one in three jobs in our sector.”

Sunak’s 2021 budget, released in October last year, saw him pledge a spending increase of £150 billion, while in December he announced a £1billion relief package for businesses affected by closures owing to rising cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 at the time.

The package was criticised by the Night Times Industries Association (NTIA), whose CEO Michael Kill, who called it “far too little and [bordering] on the insulting.”