The latest shot in the battle among a number of states to attract film productions was recently fired by New York Governor Kathy Hochul in her proposed Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget, which was released on February 1, 2023 (the “NYS 2024 Budget Bill”). Seemingly in response to efforts by other states to lure more film and TV productions, Article VII, Part D, of the NYS 2024 Budget Bill (https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy24/ex/artvii/revenue-bill.pdf) proposes several changes in the Empire State Film Tax Credit Program that, if approved, will surely be of great interest to film and television production companies. Included among these changes are the following:
- The aggregate annual amount of tax credits available under the Program would be increased from the current $420 million to $700 million.
- Credit availability would be extended for an additional five years – from 2029 to 2034.
- The credit for qualified expenses would be increased from 25% to 30%, the percentage cap that applied prior to 2019, with the possibility of an additional 10% for filming in any of 53 designated New York State counties.
- The credit would be available with respect to the so-called “above-the-line” costs of compensation paid to producers, writers, directors, actors, and composers, although the amount of such credit-eligible costs would be subject to certain limits.
- Less restrictive eligibility criteria and more generous credits intended to encourage the relocation to New York of more TV series that are filming elsewhere.
The Memorandum in Support accompanying the NYS 2024 Budget Bill (https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy24/ex/artvii/revenue-memo.pdf) indicates that the proposed changes in New York State’s film and TV production credit program are intended to “allow New York to meet the rising demand for New York’s talent and resources,” “strengthen New York’s already successful tax credit, which has supported more than 57,000 jobs and $12 billion in wages a year” and “increase support for the film production and post-production industries,” but also notes that the changes seek to “improve New York’s competitiveness with neighboring jurisdictions.” The latter stated objective was linked to the proposed inclusion of capped credits for “above-the-line” salaries and restoring the credit to 30% (a bump up from 25%) of qualified expenses, but may also be an unsubtle reference to New Jersey, which, it has been reported, offers a 30%-35% tax credit and is building out infrastructure to entice film and TV producers (https://deadline.com/2023/02/new-york-state-budget-proposal-boost-tax-credit-film-tv-production-1235246824/#comments), and has seen a number of productions choose to film in New Jersey rather than in New York, resulting in 2022 film and TV production spending reaching a record $650 million (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/business/business-news/new-york-film-tv-tax-credits-incentives-1235315801/#!).
In addition to New Jersey, a number of other states also offer generous film and TV tax credit incentive programs – including California, Georgia, Illinois and Pennsylvania – competitive with those offered by New York, and it will be interesting to see whether, if approved by the New York State Assembly, and to what extent the proposed changes in New York’s film and TV tax credit program achieve the NYS 2024 Budget Bill’s job creation and revenue goals for the film and TV production industry.