Pending legislation could mean an increase in the film industry’s already booming business in the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to a source familiar with the industry’s workings in the Territory. The legislation could be passed as soon as the end of the year.
For now, shooting in the U.S. Virgin Islands offers no major tax benefits, but even without the incentives built into U.S. tax code, the Territory has done well in attracting numerous films and television shows. Steve Bornn, Development Manager of Film USVI, notes that his organization has done more than $20 million in business in the past five years, with an increase in local employment opportunities among the top benefits.
In recent years, films such as “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” both shot in the U.S. Virgin Islands, have done much to raise the Territory’s profile within the film industry. This year, a significant amount of the business has come from reality television and advertising. CBS, the Travel Channel, HGTV and PBS have all shot episodes of popular series here, and Princess Cruises, Izod, Seagram and Nordstrom are just a few of the companies that have filmed commercials in the Territory.
Currently, the major attraction for shooting in the U.S. Virgin Islands includes the absence of sales tax, as well as an exemption from taxes, duties and bonds associated with importing film equipment and accessories. According to Bornn, the proposed legislation would bring the Territory more in line with many U.S. jurisdictions in terms of the incentives provided for film production. Among the proposed perks are a variety of tax credits and rebates.
In addition to the job creation, having a thriving movie production industry in the U.S. Virgin Islands would likely mean major gains for local businesses, development and much-needed improvements to existing infrastructure, in addition to an increase in tourism. Similar benefits have already appeared in other areas that have taken measures to attract film production, with New Orleans, since Hurricane Katrina, setting a particularly strong example for what can happen when localities encourage the film industry to set up shop in their regions.
As the U.S. Virgin Islands looks to establish the Territory in realms outside of tourism, the legislation now under consideration in the Senate could lead to a boom in the Territory’s film industry.
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