House Of Cards tax breaks cost Marylanders, should end, say lawmakers

Tax credits for filming Netflix's House Of Cards and HBO's Veep are costing Maryland taxpayers money and should be ended in 2016, state lawmakers concluded in a new report. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Tax credits for filming Netflix's House Of Cards and HBO's Veep are costing Maryland taxpayers money and should be ended in 2016, state lawmakers concluded in a new report. -- PHOTO: AFP 

Washington (Reuters) - Tax credits for filming Netflix's House Of Cards and HBO's Veep are costing Maryland taxpayers money and should be ended in 2016, state lawmakers concluded in a new report.

Maryland has given US$62.5 million (S$81.1 million) in tax credits to film and television productions since 2012, with US$60.2 million of that going to House Of Cards, the Washington political thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, and Veep, the comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a United States vice-president.

Now lawmakers say the cost benefit is fleeting and does not produce long-term economic gains to the state, which is already facing a budget shortfall next year of US$600 million.

"As soon as a film production ends, all positive economic developments cease too," according to a draft version of the report first reported by The Washington Post.

Maryland lawmakers now recommend "incentives that create permanent and lasting employment, rather than temporary jobs", said the report, which will be the subject of a public hearing next month.

HBO spokesman Quentin Schaffer said on Monday he had not yet reviewed the report and could not comment on specifics. "It sounds like it may understate the impact we have by only looking at direct impact on tax revenue and not fully capturing the spend on such things as hotel rooms, location fees, food, gas, wardrobe, and construction," he said.

"HBO has had a long history filming in Maryland," he said. "We hope there continues to be an incentive in place that allows us to keep Maryland competitive with other states."

Susie Arons, a spokesman for Media Rights Capital, said its production House Of Cards has been a "committed partner to the state of Maryland over the course of three years, generating significant economic benefits with a direct spend of nearly 200 million dollars, in exchange for consideration in the form of production incentives".

The Emmy-winning political drama, an adaptation of a British series, is set in Washington, D.C., but filmed mainly in and around Baltimore. Veep, which has also won several Emmys, is also filmed mainly in Maryland. HBO is owned by Time Warner Inc.