Film tax rebate: the incentive that isn’t

zkyle@idahostatesman.comFebruary 17, 2014 

The sun hasn’t yet set on a 2008 bill providing incentives for film, TV and advertising producers to shoot projects in Idaho.

The House Business Committee voted unanimously Monday to send to the full House a bill to prevent the rebate from expiring this year and extend it to 2020.

House Bill 498 was sought by the film industry and backed by committee Chairman Frank Henderson, a Post Falls Republican. He said the law was created to compete with similar incentives in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and other states. The rebate would be justified by the money that would roll into Idaho cities — especially rural communities — when film crews shoot here.

“When they finish a production, they go home, but they’ve already spent money here,” Henderson said.

The law is designed to give production companies a 20 percent rebate on money they spend in Idaho on construction, operations, editing, photography and other work incurred during a large-scale shoot. Production companies would need to spend at least $200,000 in Idaho to qualify, with a rebate cap set at $500,000.  Idahoans would have to make up at least 35 percent of the production crew.

But the Legislature never appropriated money for the rebate. Since 2008, 32 film projects have spent a combined $5.4 million in Idaho, according to the Idaho Department of Commerce. Of those, seven spent enough to qualify for rebates totalling more than $1 million if the program had been funded.

Commerce Director Jeff Sayer said it is impossible to know if any of the production teams would have filed the paperwork needed to claim a rebate. Sayer also said he didn’t know whether a funded incentive would have attracted more productions to Idaho or whether any  filmmakers passed over Idaho because of the lack of the incentive. But Sayer said states with incentive programs have more robust film industries than Idaho does.

Sayer said extending the law’s sunset date to 2020 would give his department the year or two it needs to evaluate how much money it will request to fund the rebate. “This will essentially be neutral to the film industry until we have some money in there,” Sayer said.

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