Here’s the Staggering Amount Georgia Gave Out in Film and TV Tax Credits Last Year

by Matthew Memrick

Georgia entertainment productions benefited from a record $1.2 billion in tax credits last year, blowing 49 other states out of the water.

Variety reported that the billion-dollar amount increased from 2019’s $860 million. The 2020 pandemic year saw credits drop to $649 million.

New York and California came in second as their film incentive programs cap their budgets at $420 million a year. Both states have budgets that are ten times the size of Georgia’s.

Georgia’s tax credit budget also surpasses Canada’s. In 2020, Canada allotted roughly $650 million for credits.

But Georgia’s commitment to the entertainment industry is about 4.5 percent of its state budget. The website reported that’s about the same amount that the state spends on mental health, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities.

Georgia Made Thursday Announcement About Incentives

On Thursday, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget made the billion-dollar disclosure. The $1.2 billion comes from the 2021 fiscal year, which ended in late June.

In July, Georgia said TV and film productions spent $4 billion in the state during the prior fiscal year.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development, another state government agency, said that audits could reduce that $4 billion if expenditures did not qualify. But due to taxpayer privacy laws, the public may never know that final amount.

Georgia All About Entertainment Industry

The state was among the first locations to reopen after the pandemic shutdown. There’s no figure for 2021 yet, but nearly 400 movies and TV shows came to the Peach State to film in 2019. That year, 3,040 motion picture and television industry businesses reaped the benefits of that work.

“WandaVision,” “The Underground Railroad,” and “Lovecraft Country” were just a few of the productions filmed in Georgia.

Both political parties support entertainment in Georgia, but the impact may not be as telling when it comes to jobs.

A 2020 state audit found that the credit had generated just 10,919 direct jobs in the state in 2016. It also made 23,209 indirect jobs during that time. Previous job creation numbers boasted figures of 92,000 jobs or more.

One state union, IATSE Local 479 represents a good bit of below-the-line film and TV workers and only has about 5,600 members.

Fraud From Billion Dollar Incentives?

One recommendation called for a cap on the program’s money. Georgia lawmakers didn’t like that idea, opting for audits on all projects that apply for the credits. The audit found that the Georgia incentives could be ripe for fraud with all the money and not much oversight.

Variety reported on other state caps, with Louisiana at $150 million and New Mexico at $110 million. New Jersey ($100 million) and Pennsylvania ($70 million) followed suit. 

Many critics feel the program is a corporate giveaway situation with Georgia’s runaway tax credits.

Danny Kanso with the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute said the $1 billion spent is no more than a special-interest tax break that does not benefit most Georgians.

With the current political landscape and Georgia’s drive to change voting laws after the 2020 election, many productions have threatened to leave the state. Forbes reported a few movies like Will Smith’s “Emancipation” movie canceled work in April due to the voter law controversy.