Tax Watch UK, an investigative think tank, has published its report on Rockstar Games’ 2018/2019 tax returns, and has said that the company snapped up a serious share of the UK Video Games Tax Relief fund. For the uninitiated, this fund is a points-based test on the cultural significance of the video game. Its setting, the location of the studio(s), its employees, its cultural contribution, and whether the game “reflects British creativity” are categories upon which the game is judged on. If studios score over half of a possible 31 points, they qualify for the tax break. In 2018/2019, Rockstar North in Edinburgh claimed almost 40 per cent of the total tax relief claims in the industry.
Tax Watch UK isn’t happy about this. Last year, the publisher was also accused of paying no corporation tax between 2009 and 2018, garnering an estimated profit of £4.1 billion during those nine years. The think tank added that Rockstar Games has soaked up a quarter of all the relief claimed from the government since the fund’s inception on only two games. This fact is critical to the rumoured Grand Theft Auto VI, because “the company has not registered any other games as being ‘Culturally British’, the pre-requisite required to qualify for the relief, since GTA V.” Therefore, Tax Watch UK is confident that the £37 million in tax relief received by Rockstar Games “relates to the production of the next edition of GTA, rumoured to be scheduled for release soon.”
Companies are able to make interim claims for the tax relief fund while a game is in development, and Rockstar Games’ claims have accumulated to suggest that whatever its next project is will “cost far more than the $137m spent on GTA V.” With the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 pitching towards a late 2020 release, it’s possible that we will see what the publisher has been working away on with the launch of the next generation.