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Loss of film incentives estimated to cost New Hanover more than $10M annually

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New Hanover County could lose more than $10 million annually in tax revenue if the state's film incentives aren't renewed, according to Robert Handfield, an economist at NC State University. New Hanover County could lose more than $10 million annually in tax revenue if the state's film incentives aren't renewed, according to Robert Handfield, an economist at NC State University.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – New Hanover County could lose more than $10 million annually in tax revenue if the state's film incentives aren't renewed, according to Robert Handfield, an economist at NC State University. 

Handfield, who is conducting a study for the film industry, outlined his preliminary estimates in a memo written last week to Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission. 

Carey Ricks, public and legislative affairs manager for New Hanover County, is expected to hand deliver the memo Monday to N.C. Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker, who is holding a listening session at Cape Fear Community College. 

In September, Decker said she wanted to grow the film industry but acknowledged that it would require incentives.  North Carolina offers a 25 percent refundable tax credit to attract films. The incentives will expire at the end of 2014 unless they are extended by the General Assembly.  

According to the Handfield's memo, New Hanover County would lose approximately $3.7 million in sales tax revenue each year, based on 2012 spending. He expects the figure to increase as he continues interviewing vendors that serve the film industry.  

"Of the 80 percent of film workers who are ‘in-state workers' about 2,000 worked locally more than 1,500 hours and made more than $60,000 in 2012," Handfield wrote.  

"These individuals would be unemployed, or would have to find alternative work if the incentive disappeared," he said. 

Handfield estimated that the expiration of the film incentives would create a loss of about $2 million in direct sales tax revenue from film-industry workers and $200,000 in room occupancy tax.  

Personal property tax would also "encounter real problems" as much of the equipment such as lighting, dollies and cranes that serve the film industry would move to other states. 

Handfield said New Hanover and Mecklenburg counties would be most impacted by the elimination of the film tax credit.  

"The implications of the loss of the industry on local tax revenue will be substantial, and will drive further gaps in state and local tax revenues, increased unemployment, and the loss of an industry in North Carolina that is healthy and growing nationwide."  

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