A key state legislator says an auditing firm’s review of the state Film Office is “mind-boggling. “The review released this morning found, for example, that state tax credits for in-state purchases were improperly awarded to film makers for out-of-state activity. Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City who is chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, read the report online.
“It’s mind-boggling to be in this position, to see what has just been a complete lack of oversight of this program,” Bolkcom says. “It’s quite unfortunate.”
Bolkcom says he “eagerly awaits” news from the state’s criminal investigation of the film office. Tom Wheeler, the Film Office director who was fired last month, issued tax credit certificates for 22 projects, but auditors have found invoices for just two of the 22 projects. The rest of the information was found in “thousands of emails” according to Clifton Gunderson, the auditing firm hired to cull through the records.
“This initial review indicates an appauling lack of oversight over this film office tax credit,” Bolkcom says. “It appears that some film makers were essentially out to fleece Iowa taxpayers according to some of the allegations in this report.”
Bolkcom has been a critic of the recent expansion of many state tax credits, questioning whether Iowa taxpayers are getting a good return on their investment in businesses which get state tax credits. Bolkcom says those questions need to be answered when it comes to this specific tax credit for film makers.
“Every state where we’ve seen reports on that issue — on return on investment — the film credit has fallen woefully sort of providing the kind of jobs that people expected and the kind of return in (tax) revenue to the state,” Bolkcom says. “So I think that’s how we should evaluate this tax credit and whether or not we continue it.”
The top Democrat in the Iowa Senate said on Friday that there’s a “50-50 chance” the legislature will discontinue the state tax credit for film and movie productions.