- Mark Niesse The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia gives hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits to lure movie and TV productions to the state, but has no process to assess whether it’s getting enough bang for its buck, according to a national study released Wednesday.
The report by The Pew Charitable Trusts lists Georgia among 23 states that lack well-designed plans to evaluate whether their investment of taxpayer money is paying off.
While there’s no doubt that the tax credits brought movies such as “Captain America: Civil War” and “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” to Georgia, it’s unclear whether the tax forgiveness is worth it, according to the report titled “How States are Improving Tax Incentives for Jobs and Growth.”
The state, which is the No. 3 filming location in the nation behind California and New York, awarded an average of more than $200 million a year in film tax credits in the three-year period from 2014 to 2016, according to Georgia Department of Revenue figures. This year, a Georgia State University study estimates, the tax credit program will cost $376 million.
“Despite the significance of the program, Georgia lacks a process for evaluating the film tax credit and other incentives,” said the Pew report. “Evaluations could help lawmakers determine how well these policies are working for the state’s budget and economy, and for businesses too.”
Though the state government doesn’t conduct a detailed cost-benefit analysis of its tax credit, it does measure their economic impact.
There were 245 feature film and television productions filmed in the state in 2016, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development. The motion picture and TV industry spent more than $2 billion here last fiscal year and directly employed more than 25,700 people.
Production companies can earn tax credits up to 30 percent of what they spend in Georgia when they meet certain standards.
Andrew Greenberg, the executive director for the Georgia Game Developers Association, said the entertainment industry brings tremendous value to the state, but he wouldn’t object to more rigorous evaluations of the tax credit’s effectiveness.
“The entertainment tax credits have proven their value, and I don’t think anyone is worried what more data would reveal,” said Greenberg, who supports the state’s entertainment tax incentive program, which includes film, music and gaming industries.
The Pew report suggests that Georgia State University’s Fiscal Research Center could provide information on whether tax credits are succeeding. That kind of analysis would help state officials decide whether the incentive policy makes sense, according to the report.