Home Gaming Rockstar Games is under fire for claiming £42 million in tax relief for the “culturally British” Grand Theft Auto V

Rockstar Games is under fire for claiming £42 million in tax relief for the “culturally British” Grand Theft Auto V

4 min read

Taxes: They’re life’s greatest certainty next to death and me belting out that bangin’ ending theme from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans whenever I hear anyone mention giant robots. The lubrication of society, taxes are in theory designed to be the currency that keeps a country running and funded so that politicians have something to pilfer from.

It’s a complicated world of bureaucracy and red tape, as some taxes lean heavier than others while some fields of work are exempt from paying such fees because they don’t make enough cash to be realistically squeezed out of their hard-earned pennies by government. The overall idea though, is that everyone pays their fair share and contributes to the greater whole that uplifts the less fortunate.

This being Earth-1, the worst reality, that idea may be noble but in practice finds itself open to exploitation as Rockstar Games has come under fire for ducking its tax bill. That’s the claim thrown at the company behind games such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and Grand Theft Auto V’s massively popular online mode, because while Rockstar Games may have made a cool $5 billion operating profit between 2013 to 2019, it paid absolutely zero corporation tax:

Here’s the thing: Is it right to be miffed with Rockstar for using what must have been some truly impressive leaps through hoops to avoid paying any tax, or should the finger of blame be pointed at a tax system that allows for such dodging? Probably both, but what’s utterly obscene on Rockstar’s part is how the company managed to siphon away £42 million from the Video Game Tax Relief Fund between 2015 and 2017.

Originally established to aid video games that wouldn’t find massive success if they could pass a cultural test administered by the British Film Institute, the idea of Rockstar claiming for those funds after Grand Theft Auto V became the most profitable video game in existence is staggeringly ballsy, to say the least.

“It is outrageous that the UK taxpayer is being asked to shell out tens of millions of pounds in subsidies to the developers of Grand Theft Auto, when at the time that the game’s developers put in their tax credit application, Grand Theft Auto V had already generated several billion dollars in sales and profits,” Tax Watch Director George Turner said to Gamesindustry.biz.

This is a drive-by assault on the British taxpayer and corporate welfare scrounging at its very worst. The Video Games Tax Relief was designed to help developers of games with a cultural content that would struggle to sell in the international market. The fact that such a large amount of that relief is going to the developers of Grand Theft Auto clearly shows that the relief is not working as intended.

Take-Two appears to believe that it is reasonable that close to 100% of the profit should flow to their US-based parent companies and senior management, whilst almost no profit flows back to the UK companies involved in either making or selling the game.

Looking beyond the obvious outrage clicks, it’s a complicated matter to delve into. Tax law is a bureaucratic beast, but maybe the key takeaway here is that a company that boasts about record profits every year while still forcing its staff to work under brutal crunch conditions to push out a new game, shouldn’t be receiving tax relief when said funds are designed to help the industry grow and flourish creatively.

Last Updated: July 30, 2019

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