Making sense of New Mexico’s incentives

State offers filmmakers 25% tax rebate on all prod'n expenses

You may have heard of some of the clients Beverly Hills lawyer Peter Dekom has represented throughout the years: George Lucas, Ron Howard, Rob Reiner, John Travolta — and the state of New Mexico.

Dekom, who graduated first in his 1973 UCLA law class, partnered with New Mexico in 2002, to develop and refine the state’s incentive program.

New Mexico offers filmmakers a 25% tax rebate on all production expenses taxed by the state.

“It is not a tax credit that a filmmaker has to sell at a discount,” Dekom explains. “New Mexico literally gives 100% of that credit very quickly after the production company completes its activities within the state and files for that rebate. It is easy, transparent and does not require middlemen to obtain.”

The filmmakers need only file two short forms in advance to qualify. The state imposes no minimums and no cap on spending. Film one day in New Mexico, receive the rebate for that day. Shoot a full feature or series, get 25% back on the entire project.

Additional rebates equal to 50% of relevant wages are available to productions that offer on-the-job training for advanced below-the-line positions.

But the real draw — and one of the reasons Dekom’s expertise is essential to the New Mexico Film Office’s ongoing success — is the state’s loan program.

For projects with budgets of more than $2 million, New Mexico will lend as much as $15 million interest-free in return for a piece of the film’s upside.

“The incentive program is designed to minimize creative input of the state on any given project (and) maximize the use of local goods and services,” says Eric Witt, who heads Gov. Bill Richardson’s media arts development efforts.

However, because the state sees each transaction as an investment, someone has to evaluate the material.

That responsibility falls on Dekom, who considers each project in terms of its commercial potential and recommends promising scripts for state backing.

“There have been about two dozen films that have been approved for the loan program, and the cap of $15 million has pretty much dictated the budget levels of the films that have been approved,” he explains.