June 3, 2021
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How to Leverage Georgia Film Tax Credits

Loring Weisenberger
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Ant-Man. Stranger Things. Ozark. What do they have in common? Other than bizarre creatures (yeah, even Ozark), they all may have been lucky enough to receive Georgia film tax credits. And if you’re thinking about filming there, your production team can save a little money, too. 

In this article, we'll cover the most frequently asked questions about the Georgia film tax credit program. That includes who qualifies for Georgia film incentives and what expenditures Georgia tax credits cover.

First things first…

Check out Wrapbook’s Production Incentive Center

Whether you decide to film in Georgia or any other state, you can take advantage of Wrapbook’s comprehensive Production Incentive Center. It can help you streamline and simplify the process of all things film tax incentives.

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Our Production Incentive Center comes packed with easy-to-use tools, like our interactive State Incentive Map, State Comparison Tool, and AI Production Incentives Tool. Wrapbook’s Production Incentive Center is free to access and can help you determine where you can get the most incentive bang for your production buck as quickly as possible.

Now, back to our Georgia film tax credit deep dive.

What is the Georgia film tax credit?

The Georgia film tax credit is a financial incentive that encourages production companies to film in Georgia by providing them with production savings in the form of tax benefits. It’s managed by two distinct departments within the Georgia state government.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) is the governing body that certifies projects as qualifying for the film tax incentive. In order to claim an incentive in Georgia, you’ll have to be first approved by the GDEcD. 

Next, the Georgia Department of Revenue (GDOR) is the department that manages the earnings and claims of the credits. To actually claim your credit, you’ll have to deal with the GDOR.

The tax credit may be used against the taxes your production team may otherwise have to pay in Georgia. The tax credit is transferable. 

If you’re not familiar with incentive lingo, “transferable” means that the production company can choose to sell or transfer the tax credit to one or more Georgia taxpayers — either individuals or corporations. 

In other words, they don’t necessarily have to use it against their own taxes.

Because the credit is transferable, it offers production companies options for recouping their costs. They can either redeem the credit directly, saving money on their state taxes, or sell the credit in exchange for cash. 

Now, you may be wondering: how much is the tax credit? To answer, we’ll turn to the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act.

What is the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act? 

The Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act (GEIIA) gives a 20% base tax credit to companies that spend $500,000 or more in Georgia during production and post-production. This can include a single production or the total of multiple projects aggregated in a single tax year by a production company. 

On top of that credit, the state also has a Georgia Entertainment Promotion (GEP) Uplift credit. This is an additional 10% tax credit for certain approved projects that elect to include a five-second-long embedded Georgia logo in the finished and commercially distributed product beginning with the initial public screening along with a link to http://www.exploregeorgia.org/film on the project’s promotional website.

The GEP Uplift credit essentially offers an increased tax credit in exchange for a modest advertisement. Despite this, the 10% GEP Logo Uplift tax credit isn’t available for commercial productions. 

The Georgia movie tax credit is available to both Georgia residents and non-residents. There is a salary cap of $500,000 per person, per production, when the employee is paid by “salary,” which is defined by the Georgia film incentives website as being paid with a W2.

How do loan-outs work in conjunction with Georgia film tax credits?

If a production company pays an individual for services as a loan-out, a personal services contract, or a 1099 individual meets the criteria for a loan-out, then Georgia income tax must be withheld and remitted by the production company for those costs to qualify. 

There is no salary cap on individuals paid through 1099, personal service contract, or loan-out. However, loan-outs must be registered through the Georgia Tax Center to receive a state ID (or payroll withholding) account and have their salaries reported.

If you decide to set up a loan-out company for your production, would payments through it be subject to Georgia income tax withholding? Yes.

Payments made to a loan-out company in 2024 will require 5.75% Georgia income tax withholding and reporting at the Georgia Tax Center.

To ensure strict compliance with all Georgia film tax credit laws, both the loan-out company and the production company making payments to it must register with the Georgia Tax Center. Once the no-fee registration is completed online, the loan-out company will receive a payroll withholding account and the production company will receive a film withholding account.

With Wrapbook’s payroll services, however, you can streamline all loan-out tax forms and processes for any productions in Georgia, including quarterly G-7 filed returns and G2-FPs at year-end.

Who qualifies for Georgia film incentives?

Qualified projects’ distribution must be distributed outside the state of Georgia and have a minimum of $500,000 qualified in-state expenditures over a single tax year. 

Eligible productions for the Georgia film tax credit include: 

  • Feature films
  • Music videos 
  • Pilots
  • Series
  • Televised commercials
  • Television films

The following projects do not qualify:

  • Live or prerecorded broadcast of athletic events
  • Live or prerecorded news or current affairs programming covering news that has recently occurred or is ongoing at the time of the broadcast
  • Local interview or talk shows or other local interest programming that is not intended for be distributed commercially across multiple markets
  • Projects and content consisting solely of footage shot, recorded, or originally created outside of Georgia 
  • Content that primarily involves post-production
  • Website development
  • Corporate marketing, industrial, or training productions
  • Any productions in violation of Title 16 Chapter 12 of the state’s Obscenity Statute
  • Sole platform arcade video games
  • Small scale games embedded and used exclusively in advertising, marketing and promotional websites or microsites
  • Infomercials, infotainment, or solicitation-based productions
  • Certain instructional or how-to-video based content and programming, as determined by GDEcD
  • Film or television projects created for a limited audience, including, but not limited to museum presentations
  • Political or editorial-based content programming
  • Projects that do not meet the requisite base investment requirement
  • Marketing or political campaigns
  • Internet sites and digital media projects that do not meet all of the defined requirements of Interactive Entertainment
  • Interpersonal communications services such as video conferencing, wireless telecommunications, text-based channels, chat rooms, or broadcast/streamed viewing enhancements
  • Live concerts or events that are not filmed for purposes of multimarket commercial distribution and rebroadcast
  • Film or program intended primarily for industrial, corporate, institutional end-users
  • Any project that falls outside of industry standards
  • Any project where filming is merely incidental or ancillary to the primary purpose of the project
  • The creation of phone, tablet, or desktop apps that do not meet the defined requirements of Interactive Entertainment 

Only production companies are eligible. Fortunately, production companies don’t have to be incorporated or have their headquarters in Georgia. They also don’t need a Georgia bank account to qualify for the Georgia film tax credit.

What expenditures qualify for the Georgia film tax credit? 

To qualify for the Georgia tax credit, production expenditures must be made in Georgia from a Georgia vendor. This can include expenditures for cast, crew, storyboarding, other casting needs, set design, wardrobe, makeup, props, and locations. 

Sound recordings used in qualified feature films, television movies, specials, and series (including motion picture soundtracks produced in Georgia) count as qualified expenditures. However, licensing fees do not qualify. 

Post-production expenditures for Georgia-filmed movies and TV projects, including editing and color correction, qualify under the Georgia film tax credit guidelines. As with other expenditures, they must be paid to a Georgia vendor. 

However, any qualified production expenditures claimed under the post-production tax credit or music tax credit are not also eligible for the Georgia movie tax credit. In other words, the state of Georgia doesn’t allow double-dipping on tax credits. 

For more information about the post-production film tax credit for eligible post production companies, contact the Georgia Department of Revenue.

Notably, development costs, promotion, marketing, story rights, and legal fees are not qualified expenditures.

To view the full list of qualified expenditures, visit the Georgia Department of Revenue’s website.

How to apply for the Georgia film tax credit

The Georgia Film Office recommends submitting your application as soon as the project is green-lit, fully funded, and ready to open a production office. 

The Georgia film tax credit program accepts applications for live-action projects within 90 days of the start of principal photography but must be done before the end of principal photography. 

The online application for live-action, animated, or esports projects will ask you to provide a few things.

To apply for tax credit for live-action, you’ll need:

  • A project description
  • A script
  • Proof of funding (the project has assets that equal or exceed 75% of the total budgeted cost of the project at the time the you apply)
  • Production company contact information
  • Key production personnel’s contact information
  • Other production details including budget an estimated expenditure total

Within the application for live-action projects, you’ll notice that the Georgia Film Office asks you to agree to supply a few additional things after production has wrapped. 

To complete the application, you’ll also need:

  • Final versions of the vendor and crew lists due at principal photography wrap
  • Final Georgia Location Breakdown List with physical address and contact information due at principal photography wrap
  • Signed call sheet from the first day of principal photography due at principal photography wrap.
  • Final shooting schedule due at principal photography wrap.
  • A completed Georgia Expenditures Report form within 90 days of the last qualified Georgia expenditure 
  • Five production still photos in electronic format with rights cleared and submitted by project release date for promotional use by Georgia Film Office
  • Three posters designed for promotion of the finished project (if applicable)
  • The end credit roll of a feature, television, or streaming motion picture needs to contain “This project was completed with assistance from the Georgia Film Office, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.” (The State of Georgia also reserves the right to refuse Georgia’s name in the credits of a motion Picture filmed or produced in the state.)
  • To undergo a mandatory audit (more on this below)

If you are applying for the 10% Georgia tax credit, (the Georgia Entertainment Promotion Uplift credit) you’ll also need to specify where the link to this site will go and where the logo will be placed. 

The logo placement should be located:

  • in the end title credits scroll after contractual agreements and the cast and stunt scroll, but before the start of the below-the-line production crew for independent and feature films
  • within the body of the program, the opening title sequence, as a bumper into and out of a commercial break, or the credits for a television project with no less than than half a screen exposure and not over content
  • In a prominent position in each single project’s end credits for the life of the project with no less than a half screen exposure and not over content for a music video

Once your application is processed and approved, your production company will receive a certification letter from the Georgia Department of Economic Development. The base certification letter will reflect the 20% tax credit.

The 10% Georgia movie tax credit won’t be given until proof of multimarket distribution is provided within five years of awarding the base (20%) certification letter. If the project doesn’t start filming within thirty days of the date listed on the certification letter, amendments to the application must be sent in writing to GDEcD.

Audits are required for all credits certified after 2022, regardless of their amount. The audit may be performed by the Georgia Department of Revenue or by an approved CPA firm. In either case, audit costs do not qualify as production expenditures for the tax credit.

You can find more information on audits via Georgia’s film incentives page.

Wrapping up

Georgia film incentives can be a great way to mitigate other project expenses. The program has a well-established track record with indie and blockbuster productions alike. That’s why Georgia is one of the 10 best states for tax breaks

Whether you’re shooting in Georgia or in any other state, don’t forget to visit Wrapbook’s Production Incentive Center to upgrade and streamline your incentive experience. The Production Incentive Center is just one example of the powerful tools and features available to Wrapbook users. 

Check out our demo to see for yourself.

Disclaimer

At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Loring Weisenberger

Loring is a Los Angeles-based writer, director, and creative producer. His work has been commissioned by a diverse range of clients- from Havas Worldwide to Wisecrack, inc.- and has been screened around the world. Through a background that blends project development with physical production across multiple formats, Loring has developed a uniquely eclectic skillset as a visual storyteller.

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