Rockstar paid no tax in UK for 10 years, claims 37.6m GBP tax break for GTA 6 development

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Grand Theft Auto VI

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Rockstar North have very much been keeping details about the next title in the Grand Theft Auto series close to their chests, but the company’s tax returns may have just confirmed that it is, in fact, in the works. 

A report published by TaxWatch UK revealed that Rockstar North had claimed £37.6 million in tax breaks via the Video Games Tax Relief (VGTR), which is to be spent creating 1,000 UK based jobs to work on upcoming titles, one of which is Grand Theft Auto VI. Thank god Rockstar secured that vital funding, having earned ‘just’ $6 billion from GTA 5 (as of 2018), we’ve no idea how it could possibly afford to develop GTA VI without that crucial £37.6m in taxpayer funding. Ahem.

“The UK’s program to support the growth of a broad range of creative industries through tax relief is a proven success,” a Rockstar spokesperson told VG247. [The VGTR] has directly resulted in Rockstar Games significantly increasing its investment in the UK, creating well over 1,000 high skilled and long term jobs.” 

In order to qualify for a tax relief via the VGTR, companies must be able to prove their game is ‘culturally British’ – a feat which has been achieved by games such as Goat Simulator, Halo Wars 2, and Grand Theft Auto V of course. Nothing says Britain quite like Team Slayer on Blood Gulch (give it six months).

Since the VGTR was first established, £324 million has been claimed, with a massive chunk of this going towards large games companies like Rockstar North, drawing criticism about the scheme’s effectiveness. 

TaxWatch UK said, “The VGTR claim means that for the fourth year running the company has paid no UK Corporation Tax, despite the Rockstar group racking up more than $6bn sales of Grand Theft Auto V since it was released 

“The stats tell us that Rockstar claimed at least five times the amount of its next biggest rival in 2019, making it by far the largest production in the UK that year. We await to see whether any profit from this huge investment by the UK taxpayer makes its way back to the UK.

Rockstar’s defence, naturally, is it’s a large employer within the UK. As stated, Rockstar employs over 1,000 developers, all individually paying more tax than the company itself. But, as an example, if we were to assume these employees have a rather generous average income of £80,000 each, this would mean they would be paying income tax of just shy of £20m, as well as £5.5 million in National Insurance contributions, well short of the £37.6 million tax break claimed by Rockstar last year.

Wherever you may stand on big business tax breaks, I think we can probably all get on board with a bit of GTA 6. Now it’s just time to find out how ‘culturally British’ it is…