Budget & Tax

Curtis Shelton | April 6, 2021

Oklahoma tax credits not uncommon

Curtis Shelton

Taxes have a direct impact on people’s behavior. Make something more expensive and they will do less of it. This is the rationale behind Oklahoma’s cigarette tax, for example: the more cigarettes cost, the less people will smoke. Likewise, making something cheaper will increase the demand for whatever it is. It’s basic economics.

Using the tax code to influence behavior has been common at all levels of government for decades, and Oklahoma is no exception. There are numerous tax credits that Oklahoma policymakers have deemed worthy to enact.

The film enhancement rebate program is one example. The program offers a sales tax rebate of between 35 and 37 percent on qualifying purchases by film and television productions. Marilyn Manson and Leonardo DiCaprio are two recent beneficiaries of this program, with their movies Let Me Make You a Martyr and Killers of the Flower Moon qualifying for the rebate program. Harvey Weinstein is another past beneficiary.

Tesla and Elon Musk may also benefit from Oklahoma’s tax code through the clean-burning motor vehicle fuel property tax credit, which promotes the use of natural gas and electric vehicles. Francis Energy, a company that builds EV charging stations around the state, has received more than $20 million through the tax credit.

There are numerous other examples. Oklahoma’s political leaders have long decided to prioritize certain economic activity through the tax code. That’s what makes some lawmakers' opposition to expanding Oklahoma’s Equal Opportunity Scholarship program, based off an alleged opposition to tax credits, so disingenuous.

In short, it appears it is not a matter of whether tax breaks themselves are a good idea or not, but what those credits are used for.

If celebrities like Marilyn Manson and Leonardo DeCaprio are worthy of taxpayer support, then why not more students like Kaleb?

Curtis Shelton Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton

Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton currently serves as a policy research fellow for OCPA with a focus on fiscal policy. Curtis graduated Oklahoma State University in 2016 with a Bachelors of Arts in Finance. Previously, he served as a summer intern at OCPA and spent time as a staff accountant for Sutherland Global Services.

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