Are the GOP Creating A Boom in Film/TV Production?


greenlightRemember when Canada was the first out of the gate with film production tax incentives? The film and television productions were Running Away to “Hollywood North”. Indeed, Canada still holds its own with over a billion dollars a year in crew payrolls alone. Well, this time it’s the GOP tax Reforms, not Incentives, that could cause a trend of Running Back to America, creating a boom of film/TV production.


If passed, the GOP proposals would no longer allow foreign costs of production to be deductible against domestic revenues. Let’s take an example:

  • Ford builds a truck in Canada for $15,000
  • Then, Ford imports the same truck to America and sells it for $30,000
  • The resulting “Net Profit” of $30,000 – $15,000 = $15,000 would be their current taxable income.
  • No longer! Under the proposed business taxation rules Ford will get taxed on the full $30,000 revenue without being allowed to deduct the foreign cost of manufacturing.
  • Conversely, say Ford builds the same truck in America for $20,000 ($5,000 more) and sells it for $30,000 then the taxable revenue will only be $30,000 – $20,000 = $10,000
  • At a 20% or 25% tax rate Ford is no longer saving money by using cheaper foreign labor.


Another major part of the proposal is that all Foreign Revenues earned from American made products and then shipped abroad will not be taxed!   Wow! This is a complete turnabout from current standards. So, that could even help for cars sold in Canada. Let’s take the same example:

  • Ford builds a truck in America for $20,000.
  • Ford sells the same truck in Canada for $30,000.
  • Under current tax rules Ford would pay taxes on the net income of $10,000 less a credit for taxes paid by Ford’s subsidiary in Canada. (The current American Corporate Tax rate is higher than the Canadian tax rate so is usually more tax to pay).
  • No longer! Under the proposed business taxation rules Ford will not be taxed at all on the $30,000 earned from Canada.
  • So, this encourages American made products to be exported.


The impact on Canadian film and television production in the short term could be big. Let’s say that the cost of film/TV production in Canada is approximately $1.5Billion per year, conservatively. If none of that could be construed as deductible against revenues earned in Hollywood, I’d say that there would be some worried Studio executives. In the longer run I expect that the US Dollar will get stronger and stronger when compared to the Canadian Dollar. So, less and less of that missing tax deduction will be missed by Hollywood. However, nobody likes to pay taxes, which may cause Studio Executives to produce in America regardless of favorable exchange rates. Indeed, these GOP corporate tax proposals would discourage production anywhere else in the world, not just Canada.


The buzz word for this corporate tax proposal is Destination Based Cash Flow Tax, or DCFT for short. Economists love eye-glazing terms. They can’t help themselves. I mention it only because you may hear the term and when you do you won’t dismiss it as another Economist’s wet dream. My take on it is that the offshore revenues and the offshore costs of production are eliminated from the corporation’s taxable income. Theoretically, this will help production in America, increase jobs and mess with foreign countries production – which will create a howl of protest from various concerned parties.


If you’re interested, you can read the source document here. Or, the Washington Post’s review – surprisingly good given that they usually hate anything Republican. Here’s a quote from that article:

“It gets complicated, but the upshot is that the cost of imported supplies would no longer be deductible from taxable income, while all revenue from exports would be. This would be a huge incentive to import less and export more, significant change indeed for an economy deeply dependent on global supply chains, and which routinely runs an overall merchandise trade deficit. Meanwhile, the plan would discourage companies from shifting earnings to subsidiaries in low-tax countries and encourage American and foreign companies to operate within the United States.” Washington Post, Charles Lane, Dec 21/16


It would be cool to see any productions coming from Canada and overseas arrive in California. Also, Ohio and Mississippi both have very good tax incentives and don’t appear to have exhausted their crew-talent pools. The usual other film and television production centers are currently working to capacity, or close to it.


At the time of writing this blog the proposed Corporate Tax Reforms have not been passed yet; indeed, it hasn’t even been fully fleshed out for debate yet. There are big players opposing it – like the oil barons (think Koch brothers) and the Walmarts and Targets who make huge profits by buying cheap offshore stuff. At any rate it’s worth investigating for yourself and discussing it with your local guilds and unions, both in the USA and in Canada. It has the potential for a boom in film/TV production, as well as all manufactured products – and all thanks to the GOP! Whoda thought?

Cheers / John


The Tax Foundation: June 30/16

Forbes: Jan 3/17

Forbes: Dec 8/16







California Dreamin’ – Film Accounting For Film Tax Incentives

My congrats to the California Film Commission for publishing the “Expenditure Tracking Tips”. It not only provides film accountants with practical tips to track “Qualified Expenses”, it also provides a framework of understanding for external auditors who have never been exposed to film and television production.

For film accountants who have completed film and TV tax credited productions in other States (and Provinces), the various rules and processes of capturing and reporting the “Qualified Costs” start to meld together, but never arrive at a universal standard. So, it’s really good to see a single document which “nails” the entire accounting process in a clear voice. Even though this was written by the State of California, it applies universally throughout the United States and Canada.

There are a few unique, and very practical, points that make me want to brag about CA’s “Expenditure Tracking Tips”. Here are three:

  1. Production Assets (Page 6): This is the clearest procedure that I have seen on how to define, and to account for, “Assets” when applying for film tax incentives. Most of the other States don’t help you out with such a clear direction.


  1. Related Party Transactions (Page 5): When comparing Audit Instructions from Louisiana, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, New York and Connecticut, this is the only place I have found which tells you how to address rentals from a crew member. Is a box rental from a crew member considered a Related Party Transaction?


  1. Materials for Verification of Expenditures (Page 7 and 8): Pages 7 and 8 list 20 different types of materials which should be provided to the External Auditor. On that list are several film and television industry unique terms and reports that the External Auditor, or emerging Film Accountant, must gain familiarity with.

My next workshop on Film Accounting 101, is in Atlanta in January. In the workshop we drill the practical basics of a film accountant with a 2 day workshop and 6 live webinars of 1 and 1/2 hours each. To learn more visit .


Cheers / John

State Film Tax Incentives and Culture


The earliest instances of film tax incentives had the purpose of retaining and nurturing culture. Canada is a good example. The film tax incentives began in Canada to nurture “Canadian Content”. It was meant as a way to guard against the encroachment of American culture into the Canadian society. The concept of “French Canadian Culture” has certainly taken root with the film tax incentives; the English-speaking centers of Toronto and Vancouver, and even downtown Montreal, embrace the infusion of American cash while learning and matching the American skills of filmmaking – well, that’s part of their culture, isn’t it?


Culture is what the people are doing; how the people are communicating and living life. Does the action of producing television and film in a State boost the local pride, infuse the community with a way to communicate, provide a skill that can be identified? YUP! Look closely at Louisiana and Georgia. I have visited New Orleans and Atlanta as part of my film accounting workshops, and I see a group of people who are downright proud of their participation in filmmaking. Personal pride always pays dividends.


Those States that have failed to maintain a film tax incentive, have failed to recognize the local cultural pride and development. The State was looking at cash-in and cash-out on a short-term basis, without a second look at the cultural advantages and how that pays off.


A good example is the making of “Whole Nine Yards” in Montreal. The film was being produced in Montreal because of the film tax incentives there, and because it could double as a European city. During prep Bruce Willis decided to let the location BE Montreal, with French accents, Canadian money, and mayonnaise on a hamburger – it was not only produced more inexpensively, but the film went on to gross $106 Million worldwide. It’s an example of boosting the local culture while still making profits – and please take note – the film would not have been produced there without a film tax incentive.


Yes, the hard facts are that a State usually gets about 8% of the employees tax, plus 8% of the cast and non-local crew, then the State pays 25% tax incentives to the production company. However, there is also an infusion of millions of dollars into the local economy for purchases, rentals and facilities that would not otherwise be there. The win that tips the scales is the spirit of winning that is granted to the local culture.

If you want to find out more about developing your film, the skills of a film accountant, or just interested in the business of media, visit .

Cheers / John

Crossing Over to Film Accounting – Financing


An accountant is seldom used to help the Producer pitch for financing. Most emerging Producers aren’t educated in pitching to financiers who are well schooled in standard business practices – and, even if the pitching Producer has some idea that help is needed in preparing financial projections, the cost of the accountant’s services may seem prohibitive.


Even if the pitching Producer does go to his/her local CPA, it may very likely be a disappointment. Most accountants ARE weak in this unique area of film finance. Ask any CPA about investing in film production and they’ll tell you straight up – too risky! But … ask that same accountant about investing in a rental property in Bohunk, say a small medical center, and the accountant will jump in with both feet. Why? Simply because the accountant has experience in similar projects and there is an infrastructure in place to find and analyze data of a similar nature.


The film industry has been a closed industry. The current blast of YouTube, Netflix, etc has opened the door to the industry, but it certainly isn’t a “taped path” to success. However, there are a few steps that are proven true in current film financing projects. These steps are only a crossover from standard business accounting to film accounting. The standards are still in the pioneer stages, so be prepared for some hard won work.


The weakest factor for emerging producers to overcome is to have the ability to generate a financier’s confidence – that is, to have those with disposable income (financiers of any kind) feel confident that the film project being pitched will generate a return. That financier has several investment avenues available. Indeed there are teams of professional investors knocking on their door, all with clear documentation and proven track records. Your best hope of generating that confidence is to present your facts according a business standard that the financier is familiar with.


Enter the accountant, or professional producer, who has crossed over to film accounting. The film accountant is familiar with five particular ways of generating confidence – all of which should be referenced in any Executive Summary and Business Plan:

  1. FILM BUDGET: A professional film budget with both a summary page and supporting detailed accounts. If this document is unfamiliar to you please click here for more information. (Note: Within the appendix of the business plan include a copy of a standard “Cost Report” so the investor can see the industry standard of reporting the costs and how they are controlled.)
  2. STATE TAX CREDIT ESTIMATE: A clear schedule estimating the State Film Tax Incentive available based on the budget. If this topic is unfamiliar to you please click here for more information.
  3. FILE FORM D WITH THE SEC (CROWD FUNDING): Show the investor that you are only looking for “Accredited Investors” by filing a “Form D” with the SEC. This is a relatively simple form which separates you from the novice who is looking for a freebie. Please read my blog on this topic to get a better understanding of what it takes to legally solicit funds broadly.
  4. CASHFLOW REQUIREMENTS: A weekly cashflow requirement schedule both in summary and in detail by account (based on the budget). Click here for more information.
  5. FINANCING CASHFLOW SCHEDULE: By preparing this schedule the investor can see that you are transparent and alert to the costs of borrowing from film friendly institutions. Click here for more information.

Including these documents in your business plan, clearly referenced in your executive summary, will raise your credibility meter significantly with any financier.

For those of you interested in getting into film accounting in a more detailed way, should visit my web site for upcoming Film Accounting 101 2 Day workshops – two coming up, one on the West Coast and one on the East Coast. See

Cheers / John

30 year veteran of over 50 film and television productions in 6 different countries.

The New CPA and the Film Industry


The new CPA is fully aware of expanding markets and breaking the mold of tradition. The outbreak of videos used to promote CPA firms is witness to an interest in reaching new public. As a result, there is a growing interest in the business of filmmaking. Where are the film companies? What sort of audit services do they need? What are the film accounting principles and practices unique to the industry?


The film industry is generally viewed as Hollywood in America. It’s true that Hollywood drives a big part of the machine, but over the past several years the production of feature films and television programming has branched out dramatically.

There are three primary divisions of the industry:

1. The “Majors”: the Majors both produce and distribute a substantial amount of their own products. They are generally defined as “The Big Six”: Sony Pictures (Columbia), Disney, Warner Bros, Universal/NBC, Paramount, and 20th Century Fox.

2. The “Mini-Majors”: There are always companies that are striving to join the Big Six – such as Lionsgate, Dreamworks and The Weinstein Company. There is also the example of MGM, which has fallen from a Major status to a Mini-Major status.

3. The Independents (“Indies”): The status of “Indie” is a general umbrella of all other film and television production companies. The Indies often approach the Majors and Mini-Majors to land distribution deals, or some form of financing/participation of their projects (usually referred to as “Pick-Ups”.) Successful Indies often make distribution deals with, or even bought outright by, one of the majors or mini-majors. For example, Tyler Perry Studios, an Independent based out of Georgia, has a great deal with Lionsgate, who in turn, has distribution deals with the Majors.


Almost all of the States that offer film tax incentives require some form of audit BY A STATE LICENSED CPA. So, regardless of the relationship of the production company, big or small or in-between, every film or television production requires your services as an auditor in your State (the only exception that comes to me right now is New York State).


The legislation which requires the State licensed CPA very often has the following quote taken from the State of Connecticut (almost exactly the same wording exists for California, Louisiana, Michigan, etc):

“… the auditor must have sufficient knowledge of accounting principles and practices generally recognized in the film, television, commercial and digital media industry.“

The State of Connecticut was at a loss as to how to address this conundrum (i.e. the auditor must have exposure, but has never had exposure before). So, the State administrator, Ed Ruggerio, requires that only those CPA’s who have done my course, “Film Accounting and Auditing” are permitted to be listed on the State web site as qualified auditors for State Film Tax Credits. As much as I was honored by this acknowledgement, it was hard for me to break off my commitments, travel to Connecticut, and deliver a live workshop.


As a result, I have taken much time and effort to break the live workshop into four online self-study courses which are AICPA compliant for CPE. I have taken the material and broken it into the following categories:

Film Accounting and Auditing – 1. An Overview, 2. The Basics, 3. Intermediate/Supervisory Level and 4. Advanced – Film Tax Incentives.

I have worked in the film industry for almost 30 years, in 6 different countries, on every size of film and television production. As a result, I have made every effort to keep the courses from being pedantic or ponderous. From the testimonials I can say that it has been worth the effort.

To find out more visit:

Cheers / John

Section 181 – Must the Production Be in the USA

Someone sent me an interesting Section 181 question on LinkedIn. I thought I’d share the question and the answer her. (She has a project which can be shot inexpensively in the Czech Republic with only minor parts shot in the USA – the project would be using US cast, and many US crew while shooting in the Czech Republic  – who would be taxed at home; so her question makes some sense.)


Dear John,

I am taking the liberty to ask you a question regarding the section
181. Some websites say that 75% must be “shot” in US, others say that
75% of the budget must be “spent” in US. If the tax is based on budget
expenses then our production will qualify. Please be so kind and help
me to clear up my confusion. I don’t want to give wrong information to
the investors while raising funds.



Hi, MarieAnna. I have finally found the time to dig into Section 181 to answer your question. Again, I am not an expert in these matters, so please don’t depend on my answer as legitimate legal or professional advice.

If you go to the Internal Revenue Bulletin 2011-47 at this link  you will see this quote:

“Explanation and Summary of Comments

General Overview

Congress enacted section 181 to promote film and television production in the United States. For a qualified film or television production commenced before January 1, 2008 (a “pre-amendment production”), section 181 permits an owner to elect to deduct production costs paid or incurred by that owner in the taxable year the costs are paid or incurred, in lieu of capitalizing the costs and recovering them through depreciation allowances, if the aggregate production costs do not exceed $15 million ($20 million if a significant amount of the aggregate production costs are paid or incurred in certain designated areas) for each qualifying production (the “aggregate production costs limit”). A film or television production (a “production”) is a qualified film or television production if 75 percent of the total compensation for the production is compensation for services performed in the United States by actors, directors, producers, and other production personnel.”

Note this sentence … “A film or television production (a “production”) is a qualified film or television production if 75 percent of the total compensation for the production is compensation for services performed in the United States by actors, directors, producers, and other production personnel.”

I’m sorry to say that it’s quite clear that the services must be performed in the United States to qualify.

Sorry about that. I sincerely hope that you find another way to get your project off the ground.

Best / John

More on Section 181

A student from New York had some very good questions about how to apply Section 181. I thought that I would share her questions, and my answers.


There are two things I would like to buildup my knowledge on:
  1. I would definitely like to learn more details on how to actually “pass-through tax credits” to our investor group; as opposed to getting a check from the state and signing it over to our investor.
  2. Also, getting the particulars on how Sec. 181 tax benefit actually gets to the investor; how do they claim it on their taxes.
Finally, if it falls within your purview … understanding the difference between:
  1. Title Holder, LLC
  2. Production Co. LLC
and which one, if at all, does the investor belong to?
ANSWER:1. State Refundable Tax Credit: What I have seen in the past is a “Notice of Direction of Payment” letter. It can be simple, or it can be complicated, but the concept is that the State Authority (which is issuing the tax credit) is directed to send the check directly to the investor. (I am attaching an example – it’s only for training purposes and may not work in your State, but it gives you an idea of how it works – I have sent it out once but the refundable check was still sent directly to the Production Company; however, the Bank was satisfied at the time).

2. Section 181 Tax: How does the tax benefits get to the lender. The DGC and IFTA got together and wrote a publication on Section 181. The link to it is:
The Q and A says:
“Q: What tax form do I need to fill out to get the incentive?
A: Currently, there is no specific form to fill out. The IRS temporary regulations require that you declare in a separate statement that you are electing to utilize Section 181. The legislative history also states that: “deducting qualifying costs on the appropriate tax return shall constitute a valid election.” Therefore, deducting the production costs (that would otherwise be capitalized) on your tax return will qualify as electing to take advantage of this incentive.”
3. Investor Ownership Under Section 181 – the investor belongs to the Production LLC. The investor under Section 181 needs to be an owner of the Production Company in the same proportion as his investment to total investment. It’s better stated in the link above as:
“In the case of a film co-produced by multiple investors, the deduction for qualifying expenditures must be allocated among the owners of the film in a manner that reasonably reflects each owner’s proportionate investment and economic interest in the film.”
I hope that helps.
See my other blogs on Section 181.
Best / John

Film Tax Incentives – Payback to the State Can Be Huge

John Gaskin

John Gaskin – Blog on Tax Incentives

I cam across an article in the Hollywood Reporter about the new U.K. TV, Animation Tax Credits on Track for April Launch, and there is one quote from Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission and Film London said public support for the creative industries “has a successful legacy in the U.K. with the current film tax relief delivering a return of $18 (£12) for every $1.57 (£1) invested by Government.”

My suggestion to every nay-sayer of film tax incentives is: DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Invest $1.57 and get back $18.00! I invite you look at your taxes paid – where does it go? Well, take $2 bucks out and know that the State has made back 9 times that in spin-off benefits. Hmmmm… Who is advising our States that film incentives aren’t working? Let’s take a close look at that person’s motivation.

The U.K.’s current film tax credit system is in place until the end of 2015. It allows producers to apply for a tax credit of 20 percent of expenditures incurred in the U.K. up to a maximum of 80 percent of the total production budget.

Cheers / John

Producers – 4 Phases of Financing With State Tax Credits

John Gaskin

John Gaskin – Online Courses and Workshops

There are 42 States currently offering some kind of film tax incentive. Different States have different types of incentives. The most common are Transferable Tax Credits. There are also Refundable Tax Credits, Grants and Rebates.

Producers don’t like to be merged with Accountants; however, a Producer who doesn’t understand the financing terminology of various States and Provinces film incentives is going to find himself/herself in the soup.

This is the best place that I have found to find out about the various types of film incentives:

Just place your cursor over the various States and you’ll see on the right a short summary of the type of tax credit and the percentages of “Qualifying Expenses”.

There are four phases of every Film Incentive:

1. Application


3.Final Certification

4.Apply for the Funds

The trick is to be able to monetize it as part of your cash-inflow during the Prep/Shoot/Wrap/Post stages.

I will be writing more blogs for Producers to monetize their tax credits – some of the ways I have seen and been a part of, as well as some that I know about.

Understanding State Film Tax Incentives, and the Federal Film Incentive (Section 181), isn’t something to be left to the “accountants”. It should be part of every Producer’s arsenal.

I have written quite about about it for Accountants – which Producers can learn about as well. Check out this web site and have a look at some of the 3 minute videos.

I’m off to Scotland for a short holiday with my family – leaving tonight (April 24th). See you in 10 days.

Cheers / John

Film and TV Production – A Growth Area for Accountants

The growth in the film industry is indisputable.


Stats show revenue growth over the past year in both the film and television. The Motion Picture Association of America 2012 stats show the Domestic Revenues have 6% growth from 2011, and 12% growth from 5 years ago. The Global Revenues show 6% growth over 2011.


The MPAA stats show that in 2010 direct industry jobs generated $42.1 billion in wages, and an average salary 32% higher than the national average. Also, there were nearly 282,000 jobs in the core business of producing, marketing, manufacturing, and distributing motion pictures and television shows. These are high quality jobs, with an average salary of nearly $82,000, 74% higher than the average salary nationwide. Those numbers don’t include over 400,000 jobs in related businesses that distribute motion pictures and television shows to consumers. (And … remember that there has been steady growth over 2011 and 2012)


Of the 52 States a whopping majority – 42 States – have some form of film tax incentive. (The naysayers are Nevada, Arizona, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Delaware and New Hampshire.)   After working in the film production business for 28 years, and delivering workshops in 7 States, I can say unequivocally that filmmakers need your help to manage the required reports for Film State Tax Incentives, as well as give audit opinions, agreed upon procedures, etc for the certification of their cost reports.


It has been said for a few years now that the digital camera will revolutionize the film industry. There was a time, say just 4 or 5 years ago, when it was only possible to make films with very expensive 35 mm cameras that were bulky, required tons of lighting, dolly tracks, etc. Those days are still with us on the big time film productions, but it is swiftly declining as the major means of shooting film and television projects. This new generation of filmmakers need the accountant’s help.


Even Accounting Firms are doing their own filmmaking, witness Withum’s Mob Flash Dance (really up-beat!) and the Center For Audit Quality’s series – my fav is CAQ – The Financial Statement Audit (very cool comic book style).  These two YouTube videos have had 53,000 and 72,000 views, respectively.


This all spells opportunity. Take a minute to get an insight into the opportunities available for accountants of every status – watch this video.

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