The MEDIA Act: Blank Check? Not Quite.
Claire Matten shares how the MEDIA Act works.
In the last 18 months, the film industry boosted Montana’s economy – to the tune of forty-seven million dollars. And looking ahead, the Yellowstone Film Ranch near Livingston is gearing up to host a projected three to four major motion pictures.
Much of this activity can be attributed to the MEDIA Act. Passed in 2019, the MEDIA act offers tax credits to movie and film productions shot in Montana. And it’s not just Hollywood that benefits.
One Montana native working at the Yellowstone Film ranch, says that hidden behind every actor and producer are hundreds of jobs.
A common misunderstanding about the MEDIA act is that Montana simply writes a check to qualified productions to get them to move to the state. But, like write-offs and other tax mechanisms, it’s a little more complicated than that.
While facilitating the lease with Yellowstone, the TV show, we wondered: Montana’s MEDIA act: how does that work?
Like any for-profit business, TV and film productions pay taxes. And like most businesses, these productions use available credits and deductions to reduce their tax liability at the end of the year. That’s where the MEDIA act comes into play.
Similar to using the Child Tax Credit to save money on your personal taxes, a tax credit through the MEDIA act allows the production to shave dollars off their tax bill.
Media Incentives Across the US
Now, we’re not the first state to do this. Georgia, Utah and Colorado have netted millions not just in production expenses, but in film tourism stemming from popular movies and shows.
New Mexico has a similar – but much larger – program, generating $525 million of direct spend in the state in 2019.
In states like New Mexico and Montana with incentive programs, producers aren’t paying as much in taxes. But they are creating hundreds of jobs and pumping millions directly into local economies.
Tax credits can be earned for lots of eligible expenses. Things like: hiring Montana residents for crew, renting production facilities and equipment from an in-state studio, and using Montana college campuses for sets.
And there are limits on the program. Montana caps the annual MEDIA act tax breaks at ten million dollars total. One major production can eat into the total amount available quickly.
To get these tax breaks, productions apply online through the Montana Film Office. We’ll link their site below. There are checklists to help productions become qualified for these tax credits.
So in short, that’s how the MEDIA act works. Tax breaks up to ten million dollars worth are available for qualified TV and film productions that file a Montana tax return.
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