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Checking in on the state of California film tax credit program after newly-inked 5 year extension

A film crew on location in downtown Los Angeles.
A film crew on location in downtown Los Angeles.
David McNew/Getty Images

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Feature films and TV shows shot and produced in California will continue to qualify for tax breaks thanks to an extension to the state’s film and TV tax incentive program’s recent extension as part of the state budget Governor Jerry Brown signed into law last week.

Under the extension, the program will stretch five years past its original sunset date of 2020 to 2025. The program keeps its $330 million in annual tax credits that are handed out to select productions chosen by the California Film Commission, but there are some notable changes as well. Independent films will be eligible for more credits under the extension language, which also promotes increased diversity in casting and production as well as increased transparency on the part of employers about their harassment policies and reporting procedures. The extension also offers extra tax credits for hiring local crew members when the production is being shot outside a 30 mile radius of Los Angeles.

Critics, however, argue that the public benefit of programs like these does not offset the taxpayer money spent on the tax credits, and that the money could be better used on other initiatives that have a more direct benefit to the public at large.

How successful has California’s film tax credit program been since it was created? And what how will some of the changes made in the extension impact the program?


Nancy Rae Stone, film and TV tax credit program director at the California Film Commission, the agency in charge of choosing productions that receive tax credits

Matthew Mitchell, senior research fellow and director of the Project for the Study of American Capitalism at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; he has written about the impact of film tax credit programs on state economies