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Tax breaks for film, TV cut in half in bill

Tax credits available through the West Virginia Film Office for movie and television production companies will be cut in half if a bill requested by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin passes this session.

State law currently allows the film office to hand out up to $10 million per fiscal year in tax breaks for film, television, music video and commercial projects that film in West Virginia. Tomblin's bill, introduced in the House of Delegates on Friday, would cut those tax breaks to $5 million per fiscal year.

Jason Pizatella, Tomblin's legislative director said the bill is part of the administration's effort to trim the state's budget for next fiscal year.

He said the legislation likely would not affect the number of productions coming to the state.

"They never came close to using the cap that's currently written," he said.

Pam Haynes, director of the West Virginia Film Office, said the office has never exceeded $5 million in tax credits. Its biggest year was 2010, when it handed out $3.9 million in credits. Most of that money went to Paramount Pictures for the filming of "Super 8."

She said the film office knew the cut was coming and does not anticipate it will have a big impact on the number of productions coming to the state.

Companies must spend at least $25,000 in West Virginia to qualify for the tax credits, then have their application approved by a six-member committee. The production must then start within 120 days. At the end of the shoot, companies submit an "expense verification report" showing all the money they spend in the state.

If the film office approves that report, the production company can recoup up to 31 percent of their in-state purchases.

That money comes in the form of a tax voucher. If the company does not pay West Virginia taxes, they can sell the voucher to a West Virginia resident or company.

The tax credit has proven to be a good incentive for production companies to set up shop in the Mountain State, Haynes said. It was the primary reason Paramount Pictures chose to film "Super 8" in Weirton.

"They would not have come here. They are on record as saying we wouldn't have even been a blink of an eye," Haynes said.

She said although shooting on "Super 8" only lasted a short time here, the film brought about $14 million in revenue to the state, including labor, lodging, catering, vehicle rentals and airfare.

Over the course of two fiscal years, Paramount Pictures received about $4.6 million in tax breaks for the state.

Haynes said while the cap on tax credits are likely to drop, she hopes it will not discourage film productions from coming to the state.

"If the need is there, I know we would be able to go back and say 'Hey we need some more,'" she said.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.

 


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