Politics

MPAA summit in DC tackles film tax subsidies

A film crew on location in downtown Los Angeles. (File photo)
A film crew on location in downtown Los Angeles. (File photo)
David McNew/Getty Images

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The head of the Motion Picture Association of America, Chris Dodd is meeting with film commissioners from around the country today in Washington to show them how to lobby their local lawmakers to create film tax credits and grants to lure film and TV productions.

"Keeping an open line of communication with state film commissioners is a long standing practice," said Kate Bedingfield of the MPAA. She said the summit will give them a "better understanding how productions impact local communities to current production climates."

Three dozen states already offer tax credits or grants. California just tripled tax credits to keep film and TV production here.

Lyman Stone, an economist at the Tax Foundation, said those incentives are a zero sum competition, with different cities and states taking work away from each other.

"And the jobs that the movie industry creates are very temporary," he said. "They don’t stick around."

The director of California's film commission, Amy Lemisch, is not attending the summit and had no comment.

California is still home to more than half the movie production jobs in the US – most of those in Los Angeles County.

California’s Legislative Analyst’s office said despite the boost in tax credits, the number of film and TV jobs in the state could decline anyway. 

Federal tax credits for filmmakers expired at the end of 2013. Section 181 of the tax code allowed investors to immediately write off the first $15 million of costs associated with film and television production. Congressman Brad Sherman represents one of the densist entertainment districts, says as a former tax attorney, he's "particularly sensitive to the role that tax incentives and tax planning can play in securing financing for projects." The Sherman Oaks Democrat says the federal credit gave film financiers "a greater degree of certainty" and spurred investment in American films. Sherman says he'd prefer a situation where California and the US didn't have to offer tax credits, but supports renewing Section 181. A House bill to revive the federal credits was introduced this summer, but hasn't been heard in committee yet.