Tax Breaks for Artists Could be a Reality in Ohio

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea Tax Breaks for Artists Could be a Reality in OhioLocal artist Michael Bush works in his Franklinton art studio at 400 West Rich. Photo by Shelby Lum for Columbus Underground.
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A state lawmaker wants Ohio’s artists to keep a little more of their money. State Rep. Michael Stinziano, who represents Ohio’s 18th district, plans to propose an income tax deduction on any profits artists make by selling their creations within designated “arts and entertainment districts.”

“Artisans love their passions, love what they do, but I think they would appreciate any additional money they can keep in their pockets and hopefully reinvest that in additional creations,” said Stinziano. “I represent a wonderful district with many talented, artistic people and knowing what they go through for their creations and to make a profit… this kind of seemed like a no-brainer, like something the whole state should be behind.”

Stinziano said this type of tax break is not without precedent in Ohio, comparing his proposal with the movie tax credit currently in place and which has enticed recent major films like The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier to shoot in the state. In crafting the legislation, Stinziano and others studied other states that have already passed similar tax breaks for artists, including Maryland and Rhode Island. In particular, Stinziano learned from the constitutional challenges faced by the Rhode Island measure.

“Part of the challenge with Rhode Island’s bill has been making legislation that violates the commerce clause,” said Stinziano. “You want to buy local, you want to support local business. If you tailor legislation, though, to only give a break to local entities, you’re probably going to walk up against a federal commerce clause issues.”

Stinziano’s solution to Rhode Island’s problem was to include the stipulation that an artist must sell his or her creations within a designated “arts and entertainment district” in order to take advantage of the tax break. Finding a way around the commerce clause has been part of the delay in getting the bill introduced in the General Assembly.

“Ideally, I would have this introduced two months ago, but we’ve been working hard with the Legislative Service Commission to recognize that commerce issue,” said Stinziano. Now that the General Assembly has entered the lame duck period, Stinizano predicts it will be a long while before the bill moves forward.

“I wanted to get the dialogue going now, put the concept out there and start meeting with interested parties of where it can be improved, who has any concerns if any are out there,” said Stinziano. “Realistically it’s going to be introduced but it will not come to fruition for a while if we’re able to get traction with the concept.”

In addition to making sure the legislation does not interfere with the commerce clause, Stinziano has taken pains to ensure that “art” is broadly defined in the bill.

“In the legislation, it does define it a little better so even like, artistic dances are included, so that’s spelled out in the language,” said Stinziano. “That’s something I imagine will continue to be one of the areas where it’s tweaked. We’re not trying to pick winners and losers, but we do need to put some parameters around it… It’s pretty open-ended if people are willing to take advantage and be involved.”

Stinziano said that it would be wise for Ohio to continue going above and beyond in its support for local artists and that such efforts will help improve the state’s prestige and reputation.

“I think a lot of credit for the attention the city of Columbus gets in particular is because of the diverse artistic community that we have,” said Stinziano. “It definitely makes our state more attractive for people across the world and more competitive regionally and across the country.”

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