LA Times probes the film incentives racket

Still think film incentives make sense for North Carolina, despite all evidence to the contrary? Add this Los Angeles Times report to your reading list.

[Ric] Reitz is one of Hollywood’s new financiers. Just about every major movie filmed on location gets a tax incentive, and Reitz is part of an expanding web of brokers, tax attorneys, financial planners and consultants who help filmmakers exploit the patchwork of state programs to attract film and TV production.

In his case, he takes the tax credits given to Hollywood studios for location filming and sells them to wealthy Georgians looking to shave their tax bills — doctors, pro athletes, seafood suppliers, beer distributors and the like.

“I’ve got a giant state of people who are potential buyers,” he said. “It’s the funniest people who are hiding under stones.”

The trade benefits both sides. The studios get their money more quickly than if they had to wait for a tax refund from the state, and the buyers get a certificate that enables them to cut their state tax bills as much 15%.

About $1.5 billion in film-related tax breaks, rebates and grants were paid out or approved by nearly 40 states last year, according to Times research. That’s up from $2 million a decade ago, when just five states offered incentives, according to the nonprofit Tax Foundation.

Film tax credits have become so integral to the filmmaking process that they often determine not only where but if a movie gets made. Studios factor them into film budgets, and producers use the promise of credits to secure bank loans or private investment capital to hire crews and build sets.

“You just follow the money,” said Ben Affleck, the actor-director who said he would shoot part of his upcoming film “Live by Night” in Georgia. “What happens is that you’re faced with a situation of shooting somewhere you want to shoot, versus shooting somewhere you’d less rather shoot — and you get an extra three weeks of filming. It comes down to the fact that you have X amount of money to make your movie in a business where the margins are really thin.”

The credits and incentives can cover nearly one-third of production costs. In 14 states, there is an added benefit: They can be sold, typically enabling the filmmakers to get their money months sooner than if they had to wait for refunds. States that permit the sale of tax credits, including Georgia and Louisiana, are now among the most popular for location shooting.

No comments yet. You should be kind and add one!

Our apologies, you must be registered and logged in to post a comment.