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Florida bill could divert tourism taxes to fund subsidies for film industry

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(The Center Square) — A new bill has been filed by a Florida lawmaker that would divert some of the state’s tourism taxes to subsidize the state’s film industry.

State Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, sponsored Senate Bill 872. It would authorize using proceeds from counties that impose a tourist development tax to fund incentives for film and television productions. Stewart had filed a similar bill in 2020, but the bill died in the Appropriations Committee.

Currently, tourist development tax is only authorized to be used to promote tourism in Florida or improve, acquire, or maintain publicly owned and operated convention centers, sports arenas, zoos, beaches and other public facilities located within the boundaries of the county or special taxing district where the tax is levied.

However, the bill may find some difficulty with its passage after the Entertainment Industry Tax Credit was repealed in June when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 5 into law.

A report by the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research released in February found that for every dollar invested into the Entertainment Industry Sales Tax Exemption program, only 49 cents was returned, while the Entertainment Industry Financial Incentives program only returned seven cents for every dollar.

Florida Democrats opposed the tax incentives being dropped, stating they added around $25 million to state coffers, further arguing that Florida was missing out on business and employment opportunities to neighboring states Georgia and North Carolina because both states have more film industry incentives to offer.

A December audit report from the Georgia State University Fiscal Research Center evaluated tax incentives of Georgia’s film tax credit and found that industry claims that it created around 60,000 jobs in the Peach State were overstated.

The audit found that Georgia’s film tax credit only created around 34,000 jobs per year. While the tax credit stimulates a substantial amount of economic activity, it is also the most significant tax expense amongst the state’s economic development incentives.

“Consistent with studies of other state film tax incentives programs, the State of Georgia loses money.” It states in the conclusion of the audit, and adds that calculations show that the return on investment for fiscal year 2024 will only be 19 cents for every dollar spent, a loss of 81%.

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