Battle Over Film Tax Credits Intensifies

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The national battle among states to lure entertainment industry dollars has intensified this month, with several states upping the ante in film production tax credits whiles others are dropping out of the competition.

On July 1, Florida became the latest state to offer generous tax incentives to motion picture, TV documentary and digital media producers. Florida activated its Entertainment Industry Incentives Program, which offers a total of $242 million in transferable tax credits over the next five years for projects that locate in the Sunshine State. More than $50 million of these credits are earmarked for the 2010/2011 fiscal year.

Florida’s Office of Film & Entertainment has begun accepting applications for the Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive program via electronic submission for projects with a principal photography or project start within 180 days of the application date (principal photography or project start date must be July 1, 2010 or later to qualify).

The priority for qualifying/certifying projects for tax credit awards is determined on a first-come, first-served basis within its appropriate queue. Eligible productions include films, TV, documentaries, digital media projects, commercials and music videos.

About 33 states have adopted tax incentives to spur entertainment industry production in their venues, but some budget-strapped states are having second thoughts about the value of these programs.

Included in the passage last week of New Jersey’s $28.4 billion budget is the suspension of tax credits for film and digital media content production in the Garden State. New Jersey had offered a 20 percent tax credit since 2006, but the votes to approve the budget by the state’s Assembly and Senate eliminated it effective July 1.

About $15 million will be raised as a result of the suspension, part of Gov. Chris Christie’s first budget as the state’s chief executive. Producers, actors and others involved with two network TV shows that filmed in New Jersey—“Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Mercy”—lobbied at a public hearing early last month to save the credit.

Producers of the former have already said they intend to relocate production across the river to New York, which is considering raising its film incentives pool to $420 million despite a multi-billion-dollar budget deficit crisis.

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