The Baton Rouge Advocate last December ran an excellent eight-part series on Giving Away Louisiana in which the paper examined inventory tax rebates, movie tax credits, Enterprise Zone tax credits, solar energy subsidies, fracking incentives and the state’s 10-year property tax exemptions, all of which combine to gut the state treasury of billions of dollars in tax revenue.
We took a little different approach.
Sometimes all one has to do to illustrate the folly of Louisiana’s corporate tax exemptions and tax credits is do the math.
The theory in Baton Rouge is that such tax breaks create jobs which in turn produce taxes for the state coffers through consumer spending and state income taxes, thus making the exemptions and credits a win-win for everyone concerned.
Take the five-year tax credit awarded in 2013 to Lakeview Regional Medical Center in St. Tammany Parish for an upgrade to its hospital facilities, for example. In exchange for the creation of five new jobs with a new five-year payroll of $1 million, Lakeview was awarded $330,000 in Enterprise Zone tax credits. (A tax credit is a dollar for dollar reduction of a tax liability meaning a $1 tax credit reduces one’s taxes by a full dollar.)
Broken down, that comes to $200,000 per year in new payroll, or an average of $40,000 per new employee per year against a tax credit of $66,000 per year.
At Louisiana’s 4 percent tax rate for that income bracket for a family of three, that means the state will rake in $4,000 per year total for all five employees ($800 each). http://www.tax-brackets.org/louisianataxtable
For a single employee, the state income tax revenue increases to $5,650 for all five employees ($1,130 each), still a far cry from the $66,000 per year in tax credits awarded to the hospital.
Obviously, the new employees will spend money locally which will generate local and state sales tax revenues, but it will take a lot of income and sales taxes from five employees to make up for the loss of $66,000 per year over that five-year period.
Louisiana, meanwhile continues to offer inducements to business and industry that defy logic—projects like the $152,000 Enterprise Zone five-year tax credit for Wal-Mart. Enterprise Zone credits are awarded ostensibly for businesses to locate in areas of high unemployment.
This Wal-Mart, however, was built in St. Tammany Parish, one of the most affluent areas of the state. And Wal-Mart pays low wages, has been cutting back on offering medical benefits for its employees and last March, the EEOC filed a an age and disability discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart stores in Texas.
In this case, the total five-year payroll for the 65 new jobs created by the new Wal-Mart was $2.78 million, or about $8,550 per year per employee. The federal poverty level for a single person is $11,670 per year and $19,790 for a family of three. That means the typical Wal-Mart employee in Louisiana is eligible for food stamps and Medicare/Medicaid–at state expense. The 2014 That salary for a family of three produces a state income tax of $21 ($41 for a married person with no children or $61 for a single employee claiming only him/herself).
The total taxes owed, depending on marital status and number of dependents, would range from $1,365 to $3,965 for all 65 employees, or between $6,825 and $19,825 for the five years of the Enterprise Zone tax credit—a far cry from the $152,000 tax credit awarded Wal-Mart.
In 2013 alone, Entergy, the electric-utility holding company with total assets of $43.4 billion and which provides electricity throughout south Louisiana and parts of Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas, received 21 separate 10-year property tax exemptions totaling $115 million while creating….not a single new job.
Entergy CEO J. Wayne Leonard received $27.3 million in compensation in 2009 and that same year, Entergy directors awarded him an additional $15,871 to pay part of his 2008 federal income taxes. The question here might be: how many Entergy employees did the directors help with their federal income taxes?
All this from a company that, after independent audits of charges, had to refund nearly $3.4 million to the New Orleans Sewer and Water Board in 1992 ($1 million), the City of New Orleans in 1993 and 1994 ($2.2 million), the New Orleans Superdome Mall ($70,000) and LSU ($90,000).
While state income taxes are not the only barometer in calculating the impact of corporate tax breaks (state and local sales taxes paid by those employed as a result of the incentives, for example, would add to the equation), but just taking state income taxes for a typical family of three or four, this what LouisianaVoice found:
- The state gave 10-year Quality Job payroll rebates of an estimated $40.85 million in 2013 against projects creating 1,357 new jobs with a combined new 10-year payroll of $680.85 million. That comes out to an average salary of $49,700 per year. For an employee married, filing jointly and with 3 exemptions (including him/herself) that comes to an average state income tax of $1,008 per year—or a 10-year total of $13.7 million total for all 1,357 employees. So, the state collects somewhere between $13.7 million and $20.6 million (depending on marital status and dependents) against payroll rebates of $40.85 million over 10 years—a net loss to the state of about $20 million.
- The state gave five-year Enterprise Zone tax credits totaling $19.6 million during 2013 for projects producing 4,857 new jobs with a combined five-year, new job payroll of $658.3 million, an annual average salary of only $26,900—an average state income tax liability of $400 per employee which, over a five-year period, produces about $9.7 million to $10 million in state income taxes—against tax credits of $19.6 million, or a net loss of $9.6 million to $9.9 million to the state over the five year life of the tax credit.
- But the real kicker is the 10-year property tax exemption of $790 million in 2013. For that, 3,696 new jobs were created with a new 10-year payroll of $1.84 billion, or about $184 million per year, which comes out to $49,780 per new employee per year. That salary would produce an average state income tax liability of about $1,200 per year per new employee, or about $44.4 million over 10 years, a loss to the state of more than $750 million over 10 years. By these calculations, it would take something like 17.5 years of state income taxes from these 3,696 employees to make up for the $790 million in lost property taxes.
These three programs combined for a net loss to the state of about $80 million per year just in state income and property taxes. And that doesn’t even include the movie and TV credits or tax abatements, the inventory tax rebates, and the other incentives. So, since Jindal has been in office, the state has given away well over $5 billion dollars in Enterprise Zone, Quality Jobs, and 10-year property tax exemption programs without coming anywhere near recovering that amount in individual taxes paid by employees of those corporations who nevertheless are called upon to shoulder a disproportionate share of the cost of government not borne by their employers.