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Can Michigan's Tax Incentives Be Saved?

by Anthony Kaufman
July 14, 2011 11:50 AM
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There's nothing like messy state politics to keep filmmakers on their toes.

State tax incentives have become crucial to getting films made in the U.S., and it seems every month, there's cause for fear or cheers with the ever-changing currents of state programs.

Michigan, which had the most aggressive rebate in the country (up to 42%), turned out to be too good to be true, as I reported in March for indieWIRE, but on Wednesday, Michigan lawmakers have tried to revamp the subsidies and keep them alive.

According to reports in the Associated Press and Michigan papers, the incentives wouldn't be as lucrative as before, but supporters said they would be competitive with other states, thereby (hopefully) keeping the state's burgeoning entertainment industry from collapsing.

“I don’t want to pull the rug out from under the industry,” Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said. “Let’s put a structure together that’s competitive with the rest of the country. And then decide if we can afford to keep the industry.”

The current program expires at the end of the year. While Republican Governor Rick Snyder agreed to fund $25 million in new film grants for the next two fiscal years, Richardville proposed a five-year plan funded through annual appropriations, and was open to putting forth as much as $100 million annually, which the state currently spends.

According to Michigan Live.com,, the Senate plan would provide the following rebates:
- 27% of direct production expenditures in Michigan.
- 30% percent of Michigan personnel expenditures through 2015, when it would dip to 25%.
- 27% percent for qualifying personnel costs for non-Michigan workers, which would drop to 12% in 2015.

Veteran producer Ted Hope recently told me about the importance of incentives to getting his films made. A number of productions, he said, "need an incentive to happen. It is absurd to see the tax incentives as anything other than a good thing. They create jobs, they bring revenue where it is needed and they are the only thing close to a cultural policy in this country.”

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