The APC [Association of Circus Proprietors of Great Britain] trade body for the UK circus industry are calling on the government to cut the VAT they pay on ticket sales, as they warn many companies are “struggling to survive” amid ever increasing costs and sky high fuel prices.
They have highlighted the fact that circuses have been disproportionately impacted by increasing fuel costs, as they use fuel to generate their own electricity and heating as well as to travel between locations.
Whilst the government has announced an initiative to support businesses with energy costs, circus leaders have said it was not yet entirely clear how this would help them, as the scheme only initially lasts for six months and would not mitigate against other rising costs.
They have argued that reduced VAT on ticket sales would enable circuses to keep their ticket prices affordable and bring enjoyment to a lot more struggling families.
Director and owner of Circus Extreme, Anthony Anderson, told SHOWMEN TIMES that one of the reasons the company left England to tour in Ireland this season was because it was the “safer option” due to that country having 0% VAT on circus ticket sales.
He said that added fuel costs had been a “massive additional burden” on the sector.
Circus Extreme has been forced to implement measures including increasing the time of residencies and visiting less locations to reduce fuel use for vehicles transporting goods and reducing the operating hours of its generators, which Anderson said has negatively impacted those living on the circus site.
He added: “All of the operating costs for the circus have increased substantially, including increases to insurance, fuel, gas, visas, advertising, transport, rents and printing. General running costs have gone up around 35%, so we have to be very cautious and carefully consider any company spend.
“The substantial increase in overheads has placed a real pressure on the business and limits any potential for reinvestment in equipment and manufacturing of goods that the circus may need in the future.”
Martin Burton, founder and producer at Cirque Berserk, owner of Zippos Circus and chair of trade body the Association of Circus Proprietors of Great Britain, concurred that all costs across the board were rising, including local authority hire fees, which he believes have doubled since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
“It becomes very, very difficult at 20% VAT to continue to make a living in the UK,” he told SHOWMEN TIMES.
Burton argued that because the circus industry is small, the reduction in VAT would not make a significant difference to the treasury but would make a “huge difference” to the circuses themselves.
He added: “For the circuses to survive and thrive, we need to solve this VAT conundrum.”
Secretary for the Association of Circus Proprietors of Great Britain, Joe Mercer, said the organisation had written to the chancellor of the exchequer to request a VAT cut and that it would continue to raise awareness of the issue.
He added: “The chancellor has just announced a removal of the cap on bonuses for city bankers to drive the financial sector and we would like similar consideration to help us re-establish our businesses on a firm footing.
“A VAT rate of zero applies in Ireland but we are asking for a 5% rate to give us a chance to continue operating. This would make a significant difference to our members.”
Government has said that the Energy Bill Relief Scheme states: “For those not connected to the grid, equivalent support will be provided for non-domestic consumers who use heating oils or alternative fuels and further details on this will be announced shortly.”