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Tax breaks in fiscal cliff bill could help Mississippi film industry — sort of

January 3rd, 2013 No comments

The details of the American Tax Relief Act of 2012 are starting to surface, and they share a theme.

A lot of the fine print consists of tax breaks of some shape or form for virtually every existing industry. (The Wall Street Journal has a good rundown of what it calls a “crony capitalist blowout” here.)

One of them is an extension of a tax break given to Hollywood studios that allows for the expensing of the first $15 million of production costs incurred in making a movie. If those production costs are incurred in an economically depressed area, that expensing credit rises to $20 million.

That’s significant for Mississippi, especially for Canton, which is the site of a new film studio built specifically to attract film crews. The 36,000 square foot soundstage sits on 31 acres, and was built within the past couple years. James Franco is currently shooting a screen adaptation of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” there.

On top of the breaks in the Tax Relief Act, Mississippi offers a 25 percent cash rebate, even if film crews are stocked with non-local labor. If film crews have at least some local workers, that rebate jumps to 30 percent.

Production sets outside Hollywood are rarely filled with workers who are not a member of the various unions, though. In Mississippi, a right-to-work state where unions have had little success gaining traction, that possibility is even less likely. Restaurants and hotels will benefit from the arrival of film crews, but there won’t be an explosion of film jobs for Mississippians, unless they move to Hollywood and join a union.