Bob Costas Gets His Cut of Missouri's Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits

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As if things couldn’t get any worse after spending $1 billion more on tax credits than you intended, the St. Louis Dispatch this week published a new article explaining how a big chunk of Missouri’s tax credits don’t even end up benefiting their intended recipients.

Because the groups toward which many tax credits are targeted often don’t owe very much in taxes, a large share of business tax credits handed out in Missouri are ultimately sold to other companies (and rich people) in exchange for a direct payment.  The result of these sales, or “transfers,” is that oftentimes only 92 cents of every dollar spent by the state on historic tax credits, affordable housing credits, etc. actually goes toward the goal for which they were intended.

The rest ends up in the pockets of broadcaster Bob Costas, Build-A-Bear CEO Maxine Clark, Enterprise Rent-A-Car founder Jack Taylor, and other individuals or businesses that actually pay taxes.  The biggest purchaser of such credits in Missouri has been a utility company called Ameren Corp.  Amusingly, Ameren Corp. recently asserted that making money by purchasing historic rehabilitation tax credits actually “demonstrates our commitment to revitalizing the communities we serve.”  Sure it does.

Now, this phenomenon isn’t anything new, and it’s definitely not unique to Missouri.  In Oregon, for example, Wal-Mart has gotten a return on investment as large as 50 cents per dollar by purchasing gobs of energy tax credits from other companies.

Clearly, this is information lawmakers should keep close at hand when evaluating whether these programs are actually a good use of taxpayer dollars — as the Missouri Tax Credit Review Commission is doing right now.

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