Hawaii Film Blog

Friday, December 08, 2006

More on 15-20% Film Tax Credit Confidentiality

Here's the Advertiser's Sean Hao's article on the recent Office of Info Practices (OIP) and Attorney General (AG) opinions on the confidentiality of the 15-20% film tax credit application forms submitted to the Hawaii Film Office.

Would like to re-emphasize the fact that our AG had originally told us that information provided on the forms cannot be publicly disclosed per
Hawaii Revised Statutes ยง235-116, which provides that tax return information shall be confidential. However, the AG reconsidered its original opinion and determined that only the budget/expenditure information may be kept confidential, but that the rest of the information may be subject to public disclosure inspection under Hawaii's Uniform Information Practices Act, unless a specific showing is made that disclosure of the information would cause competitive harm to the production whose information is requested. OIP concurred with this new opinion.

Most of the productions applied under the assumption that all their info would be kept confidential. Therefore, we are obligated to notify them individually of the new disclosure policy prior to releasing their identities. We have given them a deadline of December 21st to respond with their confidentiality requests, after which time we will review them and put together a list of them to give to Hao.

That is why "Hawai'i Film Commissioner Donne Dawson denied an Advertiser request for the information in September." That statement sounds harsher than it should--see, we had to honor the confidentiality of the applicants who applied under the old blanket confidentiality policy while awaiting formal opinions from the AG and OIP. Then, once the AG and OIP said most of the info should be disclosed, we had to give the applicants the opportunity to argue what shouldn't be disclosed before just releasing all their info willy-nilly. (Imagine if your tax returns were suddenly released to the press without any notification!)

The Hawaii Film Office is all for open government and the public's right to know (we who work here are taxpayers too!), but we also have to consider the needs of the film industry if we want to, as a state, develop and grow it here. We're just trying to do what's right for everyone, as best as we can.

Just so you know, New York, New Mexico, Illinois, and North Carolina do not disclose any individual production info on their film tax credit applications (NC doesn't because forms are submitted directly to their tax dept., which definitively makes them "tax return info"). Georgia, which Hao mentioned in his 10/4 article on the same topic, actually has a very similar policy to our new policy. Louisiana is the only state that discloses everything, including budget/expenditure info.

Oh, the other thing I wanted to point out: Hao postulates, "The film office said the 12 productions have projected budgets of $79.5 million in qualifying costs....If all that money were spent on O'ahu, the amount of tax credits created would be $12 million." Actually, he did not take into account the fact that credits are capped at $8 million per project, so if a production is spending more than $53.3 million on Oahu, their credit percentage would actually be lower than 15%. What's more, while some like to stress the cost of tax credits to the state, others like to look at the dollars that the tax credits bring in (nearly $80 million in this case), that might not have otherwise have been brought in to Hawaii were it not for the credits. Plus, how about the projected 774 jobs for Hawaii residents from just these 12 productions?

Last thing: Hao ends his article with a discussion of
Act 221, the other more controversial investment tax credit that applies to high-tech as well as film/TV companies. I wanted to highlight the shift in his discussion from the new 15-20% refundable film tax credit to Act 221, because the 2 credits are very, very different, and people tend to clump them together.

State likely to lift veil on film tax credits [Hnl Advertiser, 12/8/06]

Confidentiality Policy for 15-20% Film Tax Credit Forms
Sean Hao on Confidentiality of Film Tax Credit Info
Tax Review Commission Iffy on Act 221
Tax Credit Mania?
Two Articles About Act 88 Today
Press Massacres Hawaii's Film Tax Credits Again
Finally! Forms for 15-20% Film Tax Credit!

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