Column: Make Bermuda Tax Exempt For Arts

July 21, 2015

[Opinion column written by Tony Brannon]

I am appealing to the Government of Bermuda to make Bermuda a tax exempt zone for the arts. This would encompass all aspects of the arts, including painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers, etc.

There has been a real threat to anyone who attempts to make a living via the arts because of the costs involved, the tax structure in Bermuda, and the radical decline in tourism over the past 25 years, along with hotel nightclub closures, etc.

Some musicians have left Bermuda to raise their families and to seek steady work. Most locals who used to enjoy employment in the hotels are lucky to get six months work these days.

Ireland has been a tax free zone for several years and, whilst a much bigger country than Bermuda, it has become a haven for artists from all over Europe.

Bermuda should find ways to help get “professional artists” a climate where they can sustain themselves as artists.

As a local musician recently said to me, “Music and entertainment is one of the most important cultural parts of any society and every government should be supportive of this cause to cultivate the arts.”

Giving government cash to help keep a museum alive is only one aspect of keeping the arts alive. It’s the artists and entertainers themselves that need real assistance.

I propose the following for a period of five years:

  • All hospital levies be waived for all artists/entertainers in Bermuda. All customs duty are waived for all materials needed for their profession. This will include the musician’s personal equipment and the nightclubs/hotels/bars, etc that buy sound and lighting to showcase entertainment.
  • All hotels that hire musicians are given 50 percent relief on customs duty for alcohol providing they employ musicians 12 months of the year.
  • Give land tax relief to any artists for any periods they are not employed.
  • Encourage international artists to work in Bermuda, ie using recording studio facilities.
  • Encourage filmmakers to use the island by waiving any restrictions.
  • Explore Caricom exchange for musicians to work between the islands.
  • Abolish work permit fees on foreign musicians to assist local concert promoters.

The above suggestions are an important start, but of course other input is needed before a policy can be established. However, in principle I would encourage the the Government of Bermuda to declare Bermuda a tax exempt zone for the arts.

One thing to remember is that, under both the UBP and the PLP, two reports have been commissioned with regards to entertainment in Bermuda.

Neither political party has ever addressed these concerns and after all the effort that went into these reports resulting in no real actions, it would be wonderful to see the Government of Bermuda coming up with an exciting new policy for the arts in Bermuda.

- Tony Brannon


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Comments (10)

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  1. brigadooner says:

    ha. and right after that, the unemployment rate drops to 0% because everyone that doesn’t have a job suddenly becomes an artist. Which is an ambiguous title wit out any falsifiability to the claim.

  2. Right On says:

    Good job Tony. Thank you for your dedication to the cause. No one can fault the role you’ve played.

  3. Terry says:

    I see where your going Tony.

    Those days are gone as you stated.

    Not like the ole days.
    Time moves on and even people with talent do also.

    A guy brings in a guitar and a box.

    He still needs an audience.


  4. Rob Berry says:

    Nice article Tony, very much in tune with a dilemma that has been facing musicians for quite some time. The digital music revolution has altered the playing field and there is a real danger of a decline in musicians being able to earn a living wage, not only from album sales but also people expect it all for free. Good article in the UK Classic Rock mag about it. It is definately a threat to music and its place in our culture.

  5. Sickofantz says:

    Who will pay?

  6. Terry says:

    The ruination of mankind.

  7. JCS says:

    Where’s the money coming from???

  8. Believe says:

    I agree in principle with supporting artists and providing individuals exemptions to facilitate them pursuing their careers. However, I dont think exempting hotels on alcohol duty does anything to support artists.

    If an establishment has live music, they will draw a larger crowd, who will drink more alcohol and therefore they will get more profit. They should not require duty exemptions to do that.

  9. Former Union Member says:

    While I personally agree with Tony and applaud his continued efforts on behalf of the arts it is a slippery slope. What about tax exemptions for charities? Understanding of course they do get some help now. Many sectors can rightly plead for assistance on many levels but we must all pay something I think. I do not pretend to have a better suggestion however.

  10. Enough says:

    Artists in Ireland aren’t exempt from taxes. There are certain criteria and a ceiling/threshold also involved.

    A lot of artists have decided to base themselves outside of Ireland for this reason. Ask anyone in Ireland their opinion on U2 not being domiciled there and the tax they avoid paying back into the Irish system…..

    I agree with your idea Tony but think it needs to be tweaked in order to make it viable.