- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) - The state of Illinois has granted $204 million in tax breaks to more than 930 movies, TV shows and commercials filmed in the state from July 2008 to December 2014 - productions like the TV show “Chicago Fire” and the movie “Transformers 4,” according to state records.

According to the Illinois comptroller’s office, about $117 million of those tax breaks have been claimed so far. The state allows five years to claim the credits on tax returns, the Chicago Sun-Times reported (https://bit.ly/1GLuH2m ). And the Illinois Film Office has yet to approve hundreds of applications for tax credits because producers have two years to submit paperwork showing how much money they spent in Illinois.

For example, so far “Chicago Fire” has received only a $1.6 million tax credit for its pilot episode, and the show filmed in Chicago is in its third season.

The tax breaks come at a time when Illinois faces an approximately $6 billion deficit in the upcoming budget year. Gov. Bruce Rauner has ordered the film office “to defer application approvals for film tax credits” as a cost-cutting measure.

But the Sun-Times reports that state officials have said that over the last seven years production companies have spent about $2.8 billion on Illinois goods, services and wages. Supporters argue the program creates jobs and boosts spending in Illinois.

“Hollywood studios can film anywhere in the world. The reason they’re filming so many movies and shows here is the tax credit,” said Eric Herman, spokesman for Cinespace Chicago Film studios.

Those against similar tax-credit programs have said it isn’t wise for Illinois to offer tax breaks while the state has financial trouble.

Then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a law in 2008 creating the Illinois Film Production Services Tax Credit Program. Former Gov. Pat Quinn later continued the program. It expires in 2021 unless lawmakers renew it.

The program gives TV and film producers who spend at least $100,000 on Illinois goods and services a 30 percent tax credit. TV commercial producers receive the 30 percent credit if they spend $50,000. The credit also is applicable to wages of up to $100,000 for workers who have Illinois drivers’ licenses or state IDs before filming starts.

An additional 15 percent credit is offered to producers who hire Illinois residents from communities with unemployment of more than 13.8 percent.

Many filmmakers are based outside of Illinois and don’t pay Illinois income taxes. Those companies sell the credits to businesses and individuals who do pay taxes here, the Sun-Times reported.

For example, records show AND Syndicated Productions Inc. of California received nearly $1.9 million in tax credits in September 2012 for producing the 2010 season of “Judge Mathis” in Chicago. Three months later AND Syndicated sold the credits to Banks of America, which must use them in five years.

Producers can receive a list from the Illinois Film Office of about two dozen brokers who can help them sell their tax credits.

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Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, https://chicago.suntimes.com/

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