25/11/10: VAI Rejects Government Call to Reduce Cap on Tax Exemption Scheme on Artistic Works

Visual Artists Ireland, the representative body for professional visual artists living and working in Ireland today, rejects government call to reduce the cap on Tax Exemption Scheme on Artistic Works.

DUBLIN, Wednesday, 24 November 2010, – Today the political parties of the current government announced that the already reduced cap on the Artists Tax Exemption scheme is to be hit again by cuts caused by their mistakes.  Despite every effort by the creative sector to have the government understand the penury in which a large percentage of visual artists in Ireland attempt to survive, the government has once again hit the low paid members of our civil society.

As they focus on culture and tourism as a panacea for the revitalisation of the country’s economy, they forget that we, the artists who provide the creative culture of this country, must have the ability to survive in a country that the Taoiseach claims to love so well in his opening remarks accompanying the National Recovery Plan.

However, the portrayal of the poor artist working alone creating work despite the world around them may sound like a romantic one.  But, for many this poverty is a true reality…  The government speaks of artists as the core of our cultural identity, but in fact that core are often unpaid, trying to support families on income supplements, and treated as if their chosen profession makes them “hobbyists” and I use this word advisedly as it is an often used phrase when artists come face to face with officers of the Department of Social Welfare.

The current situation is that in order to make ends meet, artists rely on either their partners, or on having at least one, if not two, other jobs as a source of income.  Traditionally these would have been in the arts sector, either as educators in schools or colleges, or through working with local galleries, museums or art centres.  The recent cuts have removed these jobs, with the result that artists have been thrown into the Social Welfare cycle…   usually accompanied by requirements to retrain to make themselves “more employable”.

The tax exemption scheme on creative work has become a very popular topic around budget and election time.  This government now proposes further cuts that hit at the low paid.  Whilst the implementation of this scheme remains flawed with the presence of some very high profile individuals outside of the visual arts, the core of it offers a very sound way to support visual artists on the ground.  The last budgets have reduced the caps.  But, when we look at the bigger picture, for artists who may spend years with little or no income, this offset that is on offer to them is critical, especially during these times, when even well known visual artists are approaching us with tales of not being able to make ends meet.

Despite the message that the visual arts are doing it anyway and that creativity is supported by this government…   The evidence is that there has been great damage…

i.      Exhibition opportunities have decreased

ii.      The broad range of practices represented in exhibitions has decreased

iii.      Artists who are lucky enough to get an exhibition are being asked to show their work for free…

iv.      The development of artists practice through dialogue and critique has decreased.

v.      And finally, despite strong representations, the government refuses to legislate for the collection of monies due from secondary sales.

The current government must recognise the damage that is being caused and remove any suggestion of draconian cuts to the arts as suggested.  Instead they need to encourage the production and support of the visual artists in the country, rather than penalising them for wanting to contribute to Ireland’s unique cultural identity.