La. tax credit exchange launched

A new online exchange, which allows investors to trade state tax credits, has launched in Louisiana.

The Online Incentives Exchange started several weeks ago. In the first day of operation, a $1 million film tax credit changed hands. Later this month, the OIX will start trading tax credits from Georgia and California. Plans are to eventually expand the exchange to include all 45 states that offer transferable and/or refundable tax credits.

While the OIX will trade any sort of state tax credits, the organizers have ties to Louisiana’s film and live entertainment tax credits.

Danny Bigel, the co-founder and chief executive officer of the exchange, is an independent film producer who was a member of the New York Stock Exchange for 15 years.

Bigel, who taught a graduate level course at New York University’s Stern School of Business on movie financing, was a partner with Broadway South. Broadway South sought to use tax credits for live entertainment to revitalize downtown New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina by establishing a theater district.

Roger Wilson, who led the Broadway South effort, is a chief consultant to OIX.

Mike Olivier, the former head of Louisiana’s economic development department, is serving as chairman of the OIX advisory board.

Bigel said he got the idea for the exchange when he went through the cumbersome process of trying to incorporate tax credits into a financing model for renovating theaters damaged by Katrina.

“Tax incentives are incredibly vital as an economic development tool,” he said. “But there’s no centralized marketplace.”

Every year, the state of Louisiana offers $300 million in tradable tax credits. The OIX will give individual investors and businesses access to the market for tax credits, allowing them to offset tax liability and reinvest capital.

In some cases, state tax credits are going to businesses that can’t really use the incentives. For example, a movie studio based in California has little need for a Louisiana film tax credit.

Bigel said the first day the OIX was open, he was contacted by a small business in Baton Rouge that had a $14,000 digital media tax credit.

“They couldn’t use the credit, and it was too small to sell in the wider markets,” he said.

The OIX also reviews each tax credit to verify to potential buyers that it is a good credit.

“As long as the states issue credits, there is a desperate need for an efficient and transparent marketplace,” Bigel said. “We want to bring a sense of confidence, credibility and accountability to tax credit buyers, so they feel comfortable.”