Heritage tax reform would generate a net economic benefit of £85m, says new research

  • 04 Sep 2018
  • Article

Independent historic houses are the bedrock of our fifth biggest industry, tourism, and many of these special places are recognised around the world as iconic visitor attractions, film and TV locations and events venues. Their story is overwhelmingly one of energy and dynamism: between them, the 1,650 independent historic houses, castles and gardens we represent at Historic Houses welcome over 26 million visits every year, generate £1 billion for the UK economy and support over 33,000 FTE jobs. Despite their popularity, however, our member houses are facing a growing threat to their long-term viability in the form of a backlog of outstanding repairs estimated at £1.38 billion; and their inability to chip away at this backlog holds them back from doing more. 

The majority of these much-loved places are owned and maintained by independent owners, rather than by charities or the public sector – with their upkeep and conservation funded through their owner’s resources. New research commissioned by Historic Houses indicates that reforming Heritage Maintenance Funds (HMFs) would enable these special places to tackle the growing conservation backlog through their own resources, while delivering a net economic benefit of £85.5m by 2023.

Heritage Maintenance Funds are a means by which nationally important historic houses that are open to the public can ringfence funds (from their own resources) for maintenance. In their current form, with income tax on them levied at 45%, HMFs are not being used to their full potential – just 8% of Historic Houses places have one. New research for Historic Houses – which was produced by independent tax experts and economists – has concluded that a reduction in the income tax levied on these funds would be a cost-effective means of generating more funding for conservation, while guaranteeing visitor access, generating economic growth and supporting health and wellbeing. This new research concluded that reducing the income tax rate to 20% would result in a net economic benefit of £85.5 million by 2023 – comprising additional expenditure on maintenance, increased tourism revenues, and increased public health and wellbeing benefits. 

Find out more about this new research and our Heritage Maintenance Funds campaign here. Our policy team will be spending the autumn/winter engaging politicians and heritage sector partners with this new evidence base to highlight the benefits of reducing income tax on HMFs to 20% – for public access and enjoyment of nationally important heritage, for conservation and for the rural economy. 

Find out more about our policy work here.

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