Modèle:ConsultCE2014:Cultural public funding and tax reform

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13. Cultural public funding and tax reform[edit]

Among the infrastructures that make possible cultural activities, the resources of public action play a key role. They represent 30 to 50% of the financing of cultural activities depending on countries, maybe more if one accounted better for the contribution of indirect financing through statutes of teachers, researchers or similar jobs. Local government plays an increasingly important role, even though in some countries, the State continues to establish frameworks and models. The recent evolution of public financing raises serious questions. Public financing in the strict sense is at best stagnating, with a parallel multiplication of specific parafiscal fees feeding funds whose allocation is trusted to private or institutional players or expert committees.

Public financing plays a key role in making possible diffuse cultural activities through education, support to places and spaces, cultural mediation, long-lasting support to artistic networks. For all of this, resources are lacking. The parafiscal funds are often captured by instutionalized players, in a context that is not favourable to a renewal of forms and styles. This contributes to a distrust or rejection of specific cultural levies. Finally, in centralized countries such as France, the concentration of public aids on some large structures in the capital city constitute a major injustice.

Beyond the new mechanisms discussed in point 6, one needs to:

  • Drop the inefficient gesticulations such as the Google tax once proposed in France, and act on the fundamental parameters of tax resources in general.
  • Clarify in which domains public financing plays a key role and must be maintained or amplified.

For the first point, it is absolutely necessary to revisit the definition of the country of origin that establishes the location of tax for the profits of transnational companies (whatever is their assumed nationality). Tax on profits as well as VAT must take place in the country of consumption (acquisition of licences, distribution of advertising messages, access to an on-line service), as soon as the turnover in this country is above a threshold chosen to make sure that these provisions will not harm the international development of SMEs (for instance one or several millions euros). This approach is motivated by considerations that go well beyond the cultural domain, but it will be much more beneficial for culture than efforts to tax specific companies chosen for their nationality while trying ot protect their national equivalents.

For the second aspect, long debates will probably be necessary for outlining a new perimeter of public action, but one can already identify three domains where it is particularly relevant:

  • To contribute to the basic conditions of cultural activities, in particular those conditions that enable individuals and small groups to engage into a durable exploration of creative paths without managerial constraint. The keyword is decentralization (towards local government) provided that resources are also decentralized (not just responsibility) and that the local actions are not small imitations of the central ones.
  • To preserve and make available and usable the cultural heritage in all its facets. This task can and must today proceed in collaboration with the many societal projects for digitizing and making available the digital heritage. This collaboration will require the adoption of free use terms for the digitized works, including for commercial uses. Its impact will be as positive than the present public-private partnerships' is harmful: it will prevent the rampant reproprietarization of the public domain, and turn the public cultural institutions into trustees of the public domain instead of driving them towards participating into its privatization.
  • To make possible for some costly projects and structures to exist, distributing them on various territories and submitting their activity to a critical debate.