Georgia Film Credit Creates Fewer Jobs Than Industry Claims, Per Audit



The Georgia film and TV tax credit creates 34,354 jobs per year, according to a new state audit of the program — about half the figure reported by an industry-funded study last month.

The audit also concluded that the credit — which increased to a record $1.3 billion last year — returns just 19 cents to state coffers for every dollar spent.

“Consistent with studies of other state film tax incentives programs, the State of Georgia loses money,” the audit concluded.

The audit, which was released on Thursday, comes as Georgia lawmakers are conducting a top-to-bottom review of tax incentives across all industries. A joint committee of the state’s House and Senate is set to issue its own report by the end of the year.

“The report is in the process of being drafted and finalized by the committee, and will be posted online in the coming weeks,” said Stephen Lawson, an advisor to House Speaker Jon Burns.

The General Assembly is expected to consider potential changes to its tax incentives during the coming session.

The local film and TV industry is gearing up to defend the Georgia credit, which is the largest in the nation. The next largest is in New York, which recently increased its film incentive to $700 million per year.

In November, the Georgia Screen Entertainment Coalition issued its own study, which found that the tax credit generates $6.30 in economic activity for every dollar spent.

“This study proves the film tax incentive is working exactly as intended,” said Kelsey Moore, the executive director of GSEC, in a statement last month. “It’s created high-paying jobs for Georgians, supports thousands of new and existing small businesses and attracts billions in production spending and investment each year.”

The industry study found that the tax credit supported 59,700 jobs in the 2022 fiscal year. The report also concluded, based on stakeholder surveys, that 92.1% of film and TV production spending in Georgia would disappear if the tax credit did not exist.

“The tax credit was identified as the most important factor in decision-making for producers when compared with factors such as cast, crew, infrastructure, and locations,” the report found.

An earlier audit faulted the state Department of Economic Development for overstating the economic impact of the tax credit, finding that the agency often recycled industry statistics.

The film tax credit enjoys bipartisan support in Georgia. An effort in 2022 by the state Senate Finance Committee to cap the credit at $900 million a year was quickly thwarted by industry supporters, who warned that imposing a limit would prompt the industry to abandon the state.

The General Assembly did tighten up the controls on the program in 2020, after another state audit found that it was “ideal for fraud.” Among other things, the audit found that productions were improperly claiming tax credits on out-of-state expenses and for expenses that were not linked to production.

All productions are now required to get audited before their tax credits are granted. The GSEC report found that since the new requirement went into place, the rate at which expense claims are disallowed — because they are ineligible — has more than doubled.

The disallowance rate was 2.28% in fiscal 2020 and rose to 6.01% in fiscal 2023. In 2016, the rate was less than 1%.


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