Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit Fuss

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In a letter to David Goodman, Director of Development Services Agency, Columbus art and film leaders have expressed concerns about the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit guidelines, following allocation of Tax Credits for 2017-2018.

On July 18, the DSA announced recipients of the $40 million in film tax credits. In a letter to Director Goodman, Columbus area leaders noted that approximately $30 million of the $40 million in available tax credits were allocated to just two projects filming in Cleveland. In comparison, last fiscal year tax credits were awarded to approximately 30 projects.

More than 30 films applied for credits across Ohio this year. Northern Ohio received 60% of the credits they applied for, Columbus received 16%.

The Ohio Film Office serves under Governor John Kasich within the Development Services Agency. Rules were recently changed by the Ohio Legislature to remove project caps that allowed small, medium and large projects to compete more fairly.

“Film can be a major creative industry across the whole state. Columbus is a huge supporter of the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit. The recent changes, included eliminating the per project cap,” said John Daugherty, Executive Director of the Greater Columbus Film Commission. “Credits can’t grow jobs in Ohio if they are awarded primarily to out-of-state companies with pass-through, big-budget projects.”

“We all want film to grow as an industry, but it takes a balanced oversight process to use tax credits with input from leaders across the state,” said Tom Katzenmeyer, President and CEO of the Greater Columbus Arts Council. “Tax credits are an important tool. Ohio should model our law and rules on national best practices, with common sense caps and incentives to sustain Ohio-based companies.”

Columbus leaders are appealing to film production companies and leaders in other regions to join them in asking the state of Ohio to reconsider changes to the law and rules. Katzenmeyer noted that the current law provides for the opportunity for the tax credits to be geographically distributed, but that approach has never been implemented.

The letter to Director Goodman praised the Director for continuing to support the film tax credit program, noting that Ohio has significant potential to create and retain jobs and grow the industry. The letter also made the following recommendations for consideration:

  1. Enact a tax credit cap per project to provide for a more level playing field and allow more films to come into Ohio. This approach is successfully used by several other states including GeorgiaKentucky, and Pennsylvania.
  2. Encourage local hiring by increasing the local hire tax credit to 35%, with out-of-state wages qualifying for 30%.
  3. Incentivize local brick and mortar investments to grow the industry and provide bonus credits for productions working with companies based in their region. Consider an allocation of the credit for existing businesses in Ohio.
  4. Create a mechanism to provide for input from local and regional film industry practitioners and advocates.
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