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Reference > Media law & regulation > Entertainments tax

UK entertainments tax

In 1916 the UK government imposed an entertainments tax in the Finance (New Duties) Act ss1-2 and the Finance Act s12..
        On cheaper cinema seats the flat rate of tax represented a high proportion of the ticket price. Vigorous protests by the industry led in 1920 to a reduction in the flat rates but not the abolition of the tax that was being demanded. Nonetheless, the proportion remained very high: on a 4d ticket, the tax was 2d. Because of the stepped rates of tax, by the 1940s the tax on some popular ticket prices was greater than the net price of the ticket (eg, 2s tax on a 1s 10d admission charge).

  net seat price up to tax
1916 2d or less d
  over 2d to 6d 1d
  over 6d to 2s 6d 2d
  over 2s 6d to 5s 3d
  over 5s to 7s 6d 6d
  over 7s 6d to 12s 6d 1s
  over 12s 6d 1s + 1s for every further 10s or part thereof
1920 2d or less nil
  over 2d to 2d d
  over 2d to 4d 1d
  over 4d to 7d 2d
1924 6d no tax
  1s 3d some reductions
1930 6d or less no tax
  7d 1d
  8d 1d
  over 8d to 1s 1d 2d
  over 1s 1d to 1s 3d 3d
  over 1s 3d to 2s 4d
  over 2s to 3s 6d
  over 3s to 5s 9d
  over 5s to 7s 6d 1s
  over 7s 6d to 10s 6d 1s 6d
  over 10s 6d to 15s 2s
1935 up to 3d nil
  over 3d to 5d d
  over 5d to 6d d
  over 6d to 7d 1d
  over 7d to 7d 1d
  over 7d to 8d 2d
  over 8d to 11d 3d
  over 11d to 1s 2d 4d
  over 1s 2d to 1s 5d 5d
  over 1s 5d 5d + 2d for every 6d pr part of 6d over 1s 5d
1939 6d to 1s 0d nil
  over 1s 0d to 1s 3d 2d
  over 1s 3d to 1s 9d 2d
  over 1s 9d to 2s 4d
  over 2s 4d
1949 8d to 1s 3d 1d
  over 1s 3d to 1s 9d 5d
  over 1s 9d to 2s 6d 8d
  over 2s 6d to 2s 9d 1s 1d
  over 2s 9d 1s 1d
1950 8d to 1s 6d 1d
  over 1s 6d to 1s 9d 4d
  over 1s 9d to 2s 6d 8d
  over 2s 6d to 2s 9d 1s 0d
  over 2s 9d 1s 1d

Source: Kine Year Books

Penalties for non-payment were hefty: 50 for the exhibitor and 5 for the person admitted.
The yield for the Treasury was considerable. From 1945's gross box office revenue of 115m, $41m went on the tax, compared with the 17m taken by American film companies. Although the tax applied to other forms of entertainment, the cinema yielded 93 per cent of total tax receipts at the end of the war.
        The protests continued, as did the tax. In 1949, J Arthur Rank, the most powerful figure in the UK film industry, announced that production would be cut and would cease altogether after June 1950 unless the duty was reduced. Changes were made in conjunction with the introduction of the Eady levy. The tax was finally abolished in 1960.


These stubs, showing a 2d Entertainments Tax stamp stuck to the back of the tickets, were found recently behind the skirting board in the WAAF quarters of an RAF camp in East Anglia. They appear to date from the 1940s. [Thanks to David Powell for sending them.]

UK cinema entertainments tax payments
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Page updated 8 September 2012
David Fisher