Tax Breaks for new NY Companies, but not for Broadway companies.

If you watch cable in the NY area then you’ve probably seen the new commercials for START-UP NY, Governor Cuomo’s “initiative to transform SUNY campuses and other university communities across the state into tax-free communities for new and expanding businesses.”  (Oh, and in case you were wondering, START-UP NY stands for “SUNY Tax-Free Areas to Revitalize and Transform Upstate NY” – which reminds me – how many hours do you think these politicians spend coming up with clever acronyms instead of fixing healthcare?)

The gist of Cuomo’s program is this . . . if you’re a certain type of start-up company (especially high tech) or an expanding business, you can open in/move your business to one of the SUNY zones and operate 100% tax free for 10 years.  No income tax, no business tax, no sales tax, no property tax, no nuthin’.

Sweet deal, huh?

My first thought was . . . could we move Broadway upstate?

Since that’s an obvious no, my second thought was . . . well, I threw a tantrum like a two year old.  “I want a tax break too!!!”

Broadway Producers are serial start-up businessmen and women.  If I produce three shows in a year, that’s three brand new companies paying taxes and putting a heck of a lot of people to work . . . at great risk to me and my investors.

And the NY State and City Government, while kissing the buttocks of film Producers with tax credits here and there, doesn’t offer any incentive for Broadway Producers to keep starting up these new companies year after year . . . despite Broadway’s over 11 BILLION dollar impact on NYC alone, and despite adding over 80,000 jobs.

As Broadway Producing gets riskier and riskier, Producers are going to need more of a reason to do it over and over.  London is starting to look more attractive to people like me (I just dipped my toes in the other side of the Atlantic Ocean by producing the latest revival of Blithe Spirit with Angela Lansbury) . . . and frankly, so are other industries.

But alas!  There could be some movement!

Just one week ago, a group of Broadway brethren marched up to Albany and proposed an Empire State Live Production Tax Credit to “Keep Broadway in New York State.”  The idea is similar to START-UP.  If a Producer decided to send a show upstate, instead of to Chicago or San Diego, the show would get a tax credit.  I know I’d be happy to start a show closer to NYC, especially if there was an economic reason to do so.

Seems simple enough, and since the Governor is happy to extend tax credits to other industries that occupy real estate in Upstate NY, I would hope that this sucker would pass through without much resistance.

But we’ll see.

Politicians haven’t been too helpful in the past.  Their argument being, “Where else you gonna go?  Broadway is only in one place.”

If the government doesn’t do something to help battle the rising risk, and soon . . . we might not only lose shows to other states.  We may lose them altogether.


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  • john sweeney says:

    Seems like a stretch to say every new show is a start-up in the same way a traditional business start-up is. I doubt you liquidate the staff of Davenport enterprises and build a new company three times a year – or that the Shuberts replace the house staff with every show.

    I think the reason nobody is offering you tax breaks is because you and the rest of the Broadway community just aren’t very likely to relocate to San Francisco or Houston or anywhere else…

    You have no leverage!

    PS – As a taxpayer, I can’t say I’m upset that the only money you get from me is when I choose to spend $350-$500 to take my family to a show.

  • Elisa Clayton says:

    Sometimes I think ticket buyers need to see the math so they can better understand why ticket prices are high. I saw an article in “HowlRound” about a theatre company that creatively did just that. Here’s a link to the article

  • Jaz Dorsey says:

    What have politicians and business folks got against live theatre? Try having any kind of business discussion about commercial theatre OUTSIDE of NYC.

  • A Contrarian says:

    I remember when the Nederlanders threatened to build new theaters in NJ’s Meadowlands and leave NYC.

  • George Rady says:

    Good Luck with this…

    Quite frankly – the waiver of having to file with the SEC for raising “scratch” for productions is a pretty big advantage to start wit’! No “ordinary” business can do that!

    But the fact is that these Tax Breaks for Business are a complete joke. A total waste of – again – Tax Payers dollars spent on advertisement (most probably friends of politicos at twice the cost of real advertisement campaigns) ostensibly to “bring in more business” for the State (not particularly the “city” remember – most politicians have to leave in… Albany!)

    But NO knowledgeable business person would start a company in New York or New Jersey or any “Yankee” state unless there was a very specific reason to do so (like Broadway being the collecting point for National and International audiences) because these union run, tax the rich, socialist welfare states are in deep debth – already – and have no way to fund the massive liablities – namely retired government workers – that expect lifetime pension and healthy care (from people that have neither…)

    So what business owner in their right mind would start a business in NY/NJ or anywhere Northeast of the Carolinas???

    Every person you hire suddenly become a part “owner” in your business… by state laws entitled to benefits and subsidies (that the business owner has to pay for) 10s if not 100s of times more than any Right to Work State???

    And so what IF Albany says yo get “ten years” tax breaks… that’s not breaks from the costs of doing business in the state… the redundanrt “inspectors” “fines” and “fees” – all not quite so cleverly hidden… from anyone who can be duped by govenment officials.

    And what’s to say tha State won’t renege on its promise… Obama set the standard when – by fiat – he set aside the bond holders of General Motors and created “Government Motors” – if the Federal Government can simple ignore contract law… what’s to say the States can’t follow suite…

    No one really believes this ad campaign to begin wit’ – and no one is going start a business in the state – so it’s no great loss considering that no one will be “taken advantage of” this ad scam… anyways.

    Just a little Investment Reality check.


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