Today, for the first time in ten years, the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to repeal the federal estate tax. The final vote on HR 1105 was 240-179, with 233 Republicans and 7 Democrats voting yea. The bill was...
- The Tax Policy Blog
- Ernst & Young Struggles to Say Nice Things About Film...
Ernst & Young Struggles to Say Nice Things About Film Tax Credits
Ernst & Young (E&Y), the large accounting firm, has a new study out today (PDF) that lists potential benefits from state film tax credits. Because the study was paid for by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), whose members benefit the most from such subsidies, I presume they wanted a study that endorsed the credits as good economic development policy. E&Y did not do that.
Instead, the E&Y study simply lists potential benefits from film tax credits that one should include when comparing benefits and costs. These include increased tourism, new infrastructure like studio facilities, and ancillary activity beyond studio spending. E&Y is critical of "a number of studies" (ours) that focus primarily on whether the credit pays for itself in dollar terms.
I concede that the benefits they list are important ones, but they are also tough to quantify. I presume that (unsubsidized) Family Guy has boosted tourism in Rhode Island, but by how much? Whether a hotel room would have been booked in the absence of filming activity is also tough to know. In any event, contrary to their implication, most evaluations of these programs have included these benefits in their benefit-cost calculation, nevertheless finding that the costs exceed the total benefits.
The fact that E&Y's report is unwilling to call these programs successful, but rather limit itself to listing possible benefits, is telling. Their tepid conclusion should alert officials that even a paid-for study by a reputable firm can't prove something that's not true. We applaud E&Y's call for more scrutiny of the benefits of these costly film incentive programs (over $1.2 billion in tax dollars each year). Film tax credits do not pay for themselves. While some benefits accrue to in-state filmmakers and suppliers, on the whole they are a net transfer from taxpayers to out-of-state production company beneficiaries.
For more information on film tax incentives, please see our larger report on the topic.
Subscribe to the Tax Foundation Newsletter
We will never sell or share your information with third parties.
Join the Tax Foundation's fight for sound tax policy Go
About the Tax Policy Blog
The Tax Policy Blog is the official blog of the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization that has monitored tax policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. Our economists welcome your feedback. If you would like to send an e-mail to the author of a blog post, please click on that person's name to locate his or her e-mail address or visit our staff page here.