Porn-wary pols zap tax-break bill

DGA lobbying for support

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress may want to help guilds in their effort to stem the flow of production jobs to criticism that they are inadvertently subsidizing America’s vibrant adult film industry.

Fears that Congress might inadvertently provide tax incentives to pornographers had Republicans and Democrats turning their backs Wednesday on a proposal to stem runaway production by giving low budget movies a tax break.

Powerful House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer (R-Tex.) has excluded the provision from a bill on the minimum wage because of concern that pornographers could take advantage of the credit which was designed to help independent movies with budgets of $10 million or less.

“It may help the people on the margins, but it will certainly help the adult film industry,” Archer spokesman Trent Duffy told the Associated Press.

The credit which would have given a 20% tax break on the first $20,000 earned by production staff has been in Archer’s sight since it was added to the legislation in recent weeks. Sources say Archer was angry because supporters of the bill did not submit it for formal approval to his committee. One source suggested that as a result Archer’s open concern about pornography was merely a way of making the provision unpalatable for other members.

Directors Guild of America lobbyist Gary Gasper said that actual language of the proposal makes it clear that it is not intended to help the porn industry. The provision was written, said Gasper, “to make it absolutely certain that the adult film industry would not benefit.”

Gasper pointed out that films must be submitted for a rating in order to qualify for a tax credit. In addition, a film must have a minimum investment of $1 million in order to benefit from the tax break.

Nonetheless, Gasper said there is still a chance that the provision will survive. No final votes have been taken and Congress is not expected to decamp from Washington for another week. Until then, Gasper said the DGA and the Screen Actors Guild will keep fighting for their proposal.

Gasper’s firm was hired by the guilds earlier this year to carry the fight for the tax incentive to Congress. The studios are not actively supporting the legislation with their powerful lobbyists. Motion Picture Assn. of America topper Jack Valenti has publicly supported the tax incentives in statements to the guilds but has not been an active participant in the current debate.

Despite the chances of the provision passing in the current Congress, DGA spokesman Charles Warn said the guilds are pleased that Congress is even considering the tax break. “To come this far in such a short time — we are encouraged by that,” Warn said.

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