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HMRC internal manual

Theatre Tax Relief

Qualifying productions: theatrical production

S1217FA & S1217FB Corporation Tax Act 2009

A production can only be a qualifying production for Theatre Tax Relief (TTR) purposes if it is a theatrical production: a dramatic production or a ballet that is not specifically excluded by the legislation from being regarded as a theatrical production.

Dramatic production

A dramatic production means a production of a play, an opera, a musical or other dramatic piece (whether or not involving improvisation) in relation to which:

  • the actors, singers, dancers or other performers are to give their performances wholly or mainly by the playing of a role
  • each performance in the proposed run of performances is to be live, and
  • the presentation of live performances is the main object, or one of the main objects, of the company’s activities in relation to the performance.

Live performances

At the beginning of the producing phase a company must intend that all or a high proportion of the performances of the production will be live.

A performance is ‘live’ if it is to an audience before whom the performers are actually present.

Live streaming

A production for live streaming may qualify if there is an audience present where the production takes place, provided the main object or one of the main objects of the company’s activities was to put on live performances in relation to the production.  However, recorded performances may not qualify (see Productions not regarded as theatrical below).

Circus production

A circus production may qualify if the above conditions are met.  For example a circus production which is scripted and is a dramatic production and the performers play a role may qualify as opposed to something like a high-wire trapeze performance, which is generally regarded as an indoor sport or a display of athleticism, skill or strength.


A ballet is a theatrical production whether or not it is also a dramatic production.

Contemporary ballet

Contemporary ballet productions where there may not necessarily be a dramatic narrative but the production incorporates elements of classical ballet and classical ballet techniques may qualify.

Other dance

All other types of dance, displays of dances, dance competitions, etc will not qualify for relief unless they are dramatic productions or an incidental part of a dramatic production (see Dramatic production above)

Productions not regarded as theatrical

A dramatic production or ballet is not regarded as a theatrical production if:

  • the main purpose, or one of the main purposes, for which it is made is to advertise or promote any goods or services
  • the performances are to consist of or include a competition or contest
  • a wild animal is to be used in any performance
  • the production is of a sexual nature, or
  • the making of a relevant recording is the main object, or one of the main objects, of the company’s activities in relation to the production.

Wild animals

A wild animal is an animal of a kind which is not commonly domesticated in the British Islands (and in this definition ‘animal’ has the meaning given by section 1(1) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006).

An animal is used in a performance if the animal performs, or is shown, in the course of the performance.

Productions of a sexual nature

A production is of a sexual nature if the performances are to include any content the nature of which is such that, ignoring financial gain, it would be reasonable to assume the content to be included solely or principally for the purposes of sexually stimulating any member of the audience (whether by verbal or other means).

Examples of performances which would be excluded from TTR would be (but not limited to): lap dancing, pole dancing, table dancing, strip shows, peep shows and live sex shows.  It is also probable that these performances might not constitute the playing of a role and so be excluded from TTR under that rule.

Relevant recordings

Performances recorded as a film (or part of a film) for exhibition to the paying general public at the commercial cinema or for broadcast to the general public by any means (including television, radio or the internet) are not within the scope of TTR.  Films and television productions may instead qualify for Film Tax Relief or Television Tax Relief (see the Film Production Company Manual or the Television Production Company Manual for more information about those reliefs).