Tax relief for choirs

Making Music and other major music sector organisations are calling for the eligibility criteria for Orchestra Tax Relief to be changed so choirs can also benefit. Making Music members and the wider music sector can support this call by approaching MPs and candidates for election in 2024 to raise this issue.  

Click the links below to read our signed proposal on adding voice as an instrument and the accompanying press release:



The organisations and networks supporting this call include: Association of British Orchestras, UK Music, Musicians’ Union, Independent Society of Musicians, Association of British Choral Directors, English Folk Dance and Song Society, Music Mark, Making Music and 30 others. See the full list in the proposal

What are creative tax reliefs and why are choirs not eligible?

Over the last 20 years governments have introduced various creative tax reliefs to enable organisations to claim back some of their production costs. Two of these tax reliefs – Orchestra Tax Relief (OTR) and Theatre Tax Relief (TTR) – are already being used by Making Music members to claim back an average 23% of their concert and event costs. The UK government recently recognised the importance of this tax relief and its impact on the music industry by announcing a permanent higher rate of 45%.

These tax reliefs have made a significant contribution to groups’ budgets and facilitated growth and activity. Supported music groups produce more and larger work and events, engage more professionals and commission more new work, enabling more participants and audiences to experience the joy of live music performance.  

To be eligible for OTR, a performance must include 12 or more instruments that are not directly amplified. That means all kinds of instrumental groups can claim, not just orchestras: brass and concert bands, string players, handbell ringers, jazz bands, flute choirs...  

But 'voice' is not an eligible instrument, so concerts that are organised by choirs or where the performance is mostly vocal do not qualify.  

Why not ask for a Choir Tax Relief? 

Creating a new choir tax relief would require UK legislation which may be difficult to prioritise in terms of the limited parliamentary time available. We think that a simpler solution is that OTR be extended to include 'voice' as one of the eligible instruments.

Choirs operate in similar ways to orchestras and acoustic instrumental ensembles. They also produce concerts and incur production costs leading to performances, which are the costs that groups can claim against. The current legislation for OTR and the systems HMRC have already created would work equally well for acoustic vocal groups of 12+.   

What are the benefits for choirs, their audiences and all of us? 

As a review of OTR in preparation for the 2024 budget, the Association of British Orchestras and others submitted case studies and data to HMRC and the Treasury. This proved that OTR support translates into more ambitious and larger scale programming, more professionals engaged and commissioned, increased venue hires and growth in night-time economy. There is no doubt that this effect would be extended if choirs were included.  

All this facilitates the sustainability of the music sector and a greater reach of audiences and new participants, with all the ensuing secondary benefits to individual wellbeing, educational attainment, pride of place, community cohesion, regeneration, and social inclusion. 

The professional and non-professional choir sector in this country is considerable. We estimate the number of professional choirs (i.e. where all singers are professional) in the UK to be around 100 (estimated as there is no network organisation representing them). There is a larger number of choirs made up of non-professional singers, as the UK has a strong tradition of choral singing. Data suggests there are at least 9,000 across the UK.  

Currently a lack of inward investment is holding back the economic growth of the choir sector and the significant contribution choirs make to professionals’ portfolio careers; they engage around 30,000 choir leaders, composers and singers every year. 

But is it complicated to make a claim? 

Claiming tax relief does involve a bit of work and a group is likely to need to make some changes to how it operates. But Making Music has developed a service to process creative tax relief claims for members and has extensive experience in submitting compliant claims to HMRC. In 2023, over £400,000 was paid out to the 66 members who made a claim. 

How should I approach my MP or election candidate? 

We’re asking members of Making Music to approach their current MPs and also the candidates for election in their own constituencies when we’re in the run-up to the General Election. Your MP’s role is to represent your views to government, and they will listen harder when they are looking for your vote! Find out who your MP is and their contact details

We don’t provide template letters as we know that MPs take more notice of constituents who present their own views, and how the issue directly affects them and their community. When writing or emailing we suggest you include the following: 

  • A brief description of your group, including where you rehearse and perform within that constituency. Include data like numbers of members, concerts, and audiences.  
  • Outline the issue and the proposal - you can cut and paste this from this webpage. Note that the proposal is supported by over 40 organisations. Attach the PDF of the proposal to your email/letter.  
  • Explain what the additional income from this tax relief could enable you to do. Focus on development – what new or more activity could you do? This is a stronger argument than saying your group will fail without this income.  
  • Explain the benefits to the wider community this would have; as well as access to music, these could be economic, educational, health and well-being, place-making. 
  • Call to action – this is a decision that would be made by the Treasury, so ask your MPs to let the Treasury know they support this proposal.   
  • Keep up the connection. If you have a concert coming up, include an invitation to this. Keep your MP on your invite or mailing list permanently, to nurture this relationship.  

Read more about our Orchestra Tax Relief service.