State identifies tax credit recipients

WGBH receives $4.2m in film tax credits

The state for the very first time is identifying by name the recipients of eight state tax credits, allowing the public to see which businesses taxpayers are subsidizing.

The report identifies the recipients of approximately $170 million in tax credits issued or awarded in 2011. The three biggest tax credit programs were those for historic rehabilitation (nearly $50 million), brownfields remediation ($47 million), and film and commercial production ($37.9 million).

As expected, the producers of major feature films pocketed a large amount of the film tax credits handed out last year to lure movies and commercials to Massachusetts. The top three recipients were Columbia Pictures (Here Comes The Boom/$11.6 million), Thunder Buddies LLC (Ted/$9 million), and Number Productions Inc. (What’s Your Number?/$5.4 million), which together accounted for 69 percent of the total film tax credits issued.

The fourth-largest recipient of film tax credits was more of a surprise. WGBH, Boston’s public broadcasting TV station, received $4.2 million, or 11.2 percent of the total, for such shows as American Experience, Between the Lions, Nova, Design Squad, Frontline, and High School Quiz Show.

Some of the film tax credit money went to support WGBH productions that would have been shot in Massachusetts anyway, but station officials say the tax credits allowed them to produce more shows in Massachusetts and do more filming inside the state.

“It’s terrific for us because finding funding to do what we do is very hard to do,” said Jeanne Hopkins, WGBH’s vice president for communications.

Hopkins said the availability of film tax credits prompted the station to do more filming in Massachusetts for such shows as Between the Lions and Design Squad and allowed officials to launch High School Quiz Show. “Without the tax credits, we wouldn’t be able to do that show,” she said.

At least 45 commercials and public service announcements were produced in Massachusetts, triggering more than $1.9 million in film tax credits. Three production companies (Redtree Productions and Allen Roche of Boston and Picture Park of Somerville) produced 31 of the commercials for credits worth $1.5 million. Clients included Ocean Spray, Rockland Trust, Webster Bank, Timberland, Eastern Bank, several Bay State auto dealerships, and the Connecticut Lottery.The film tax credit offers companies shooting movies, TV shows, and commercials in Massachusetts a credit equal to 25 percent of whatever they spend inside the state. The credit is very attractive because it can be converted into cash by selling it back to the state or to a third party, which can use the credit to reduce its tax liability.

The state report also identifies the recipients of historic rehabilitation, low-income housing, brownfields, dairy farmer, medical device, and life sciences tax credits. The recipients of historic rehabilitation and life science tax credits have previously been disclosed, but the names of the beneficiaries of other tax credit programs have been shielded for years by state officials who viewed the information as confidential tax information. The information was ordered released under legislation passed in 2010.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

The brownfields credit, which offers a tax credit for up to 50 percent of the cost of remediating a hazardous waste site on property in an economically distressed area, was awarded to developers of a number of high-end properties.

Partners HealthCare received a total of $8.4 million in credits for two projects at undisclosed locations. Clarendon Street Associates received $6.4 million in tax credits, apparently for a luxury condo and apartment tower built next to the Hancock building. Millenium Partners, developer of the Ritz Carlton tower, received $3.7 million, apparently for a project at 1 Charles St. The company that built the Intercontinental Hotel received $2 million in brownfield tax credits, according to the report.

Paul McMorrow contributed to this report.