Spain debates new legislation that attempts to induce sponsorship of the arts with tax cuts

If the law is passed, sponsors will be granted legal provisions so they might better circumvent obstacles that complicate art funding

The Spanish Government is about to introduce a bill, to be debated this year, to encourage corporate sponsorship of the arts, and offering companies tax concessions. This was announced at a recent conference in Barcelona on cultural heritage and sponsorship. During the ensuing discussion, experts agreed on certain issues, but it was pointed out that such a bill would certainly not remedy the current state of sponsorship in Spain, which provides an insignificant contribution to the country’s culture.

Boja Puig de la Bellacasa, secretary general of the Ministry of Culture, observed that tax incentives would have little effect on corporate sponsorship. Company decisions on sponsorship were based on such criteria as publicity value and promotion of image, rather than purely economic considerations. Italy was quoted as an example. There, where companies enjoyed fewer tax advantages than in Spain, the level of sponsorship of cultural events, around L800 billion (£363 million), was higher than in any other EEC member country.

Despite some doubt about the usefulness of a sponsorship bill, the government agreed that there was a need to find a way to encourage potential sponsors, since current Spanish legislation was inadequate. The proposed bill aims not so much to establish new tax incentives, although this question would be addressed, but to clarify existing legal provisions to enable the potential sponsor to understand how the law may be applied. It deals firstly with the law on advertising, under which money paid out for sponsorship is tax-deductible, and secondly the law on property of cultural value to the nation, which is seldom applied because of the reluctance of owners of great works of art to admit to the authorities that such works exist.

At the conference in Barcelona, it was pointed out that simply introducing a bill was not enough to encourage sponsorship of the arts. This could only be done by giving new legal and, more importantly, fiscal status to cultural foundations, organisations which play a major role in bringing together the public sector and private enterprise and ensuring cooperation between them.