Film Tax Credits: A Taxpayer Fleece?

Mar 28, 2013

Of all the tax subsidies states had out, the film tax credits seem among the most frivolous. Sure, politicians love rubbing elbows with Hollywood luminaries, but what about the taxpayers?

Now comes this report from Massachusetts: The Bay State’s film subsidy program cost taxpayers an estimated $44 million in 2011, though it created the equivalent of just about 1,200 full-time jobs.

The Massachusetts state Department of Revenue said in a recent report that most of the economic benefits went to Hollywood and other locales and that only 35 percent of the $176 million that movie production companies spent in Massachusetts went to residents and firms in the state, according to an account of the report in the Boston Globe.

The state of Massachusetts ``recouped just 16 cents in new revenue for every $1 it gave up in subsidies in 2011, the most recent year with complete data.’’

The revenue agency estimated that the cost to Massachusetts taxpayers per job created was $128,000 since the tax program was instituted in 2006.` ``If you are seeing a cost per job that is greater than the salary of those jobs, that suggests there is a pretty serious problem with the tax break, ‘’ said Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a watchdog group.

About 40 states, including Rhode Island, offer film subsidies. But one has to wonder why strapped working-class taxpayers are subsidizing Hollywood millionaires and pampered red carpeteers. I love Ben Affleck as much as anyone (Argo was great), but why should taxpayers who are having their kids’ teachers laid off subsidize his salary? This looks like another example of raw corporate welfare.