Pennsylvania’s Film Tax Credit is a Flop

Pennsylvania’s film tax credit program has exhausted its limits for the year, to much moaning from the film industry lobbyists. Sharon Pinkenson, Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, explains, “We don’t have any more money on the state level to give out anywhere in the state. The tax credits for the current fiscal year and the one that’s coming up beginning in July have already been accounted for by projects [that] have been here this whole last year.”

Film tax credits are tax breaks given to filmmakers, up to 25 percent of production costs. In fact, the tax credit can be larger than a film production actually owes in taxes.

The credit is an incentive to film movies and TV commercials in a specific state, a process which ostensibly creates jobs, but has failed to result in much economic benefit.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s quarterly survey of employment, Pennsylvania has fewer than 8,000 workers in the industry category of “Motion picture and sound recording industries,” representing about 0.2% of the state workforce, and an increase of 800 employees since 2004.

The film tax credit program joins other corporate welfare programs on Pennsylvania lawmakers’ docket of wasteful spending.  The Tax Foundation reports that states are showing less than a 20 cent return in taxes for every $1 in credits given away.

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania lawmakers have been unable to resist the giant, overpriced bucket of popcorn that the film tax credit represents.