San Francisco's $2.8 Million Corporate Welfare Tab

Categories: Government
Matt Smith illustration
Up with corporate welfare!
Gov. Jerry Brown has moved to cut public money thrown at enterprise tax zones, which provide breaks to companies in certain disadvantaged areas, including San Francisco's Financial District and SOMA.

But San Francisco companies are veritable corporate welfare queens. They get $2.8 million in local tax breaks for enterprise zones and for membership in the biotechnology and clean technology industries, according to information from a new S.F. Tax Collector report.

San Francisco forgoes $2.8 million in annual taxes, thanks to incentive programs set up for biotech, clean tech, and disadvantaged-area businesses, according to the new report.

Of that revenue, $217,189 is provided to businesses in enterprise zones. Brown pointed out that there's no definitive link between the program and actual job creation, and he's announced he'll crack down on it by revising those tax subsidies.

These types of tax breaks are indeed a lousy tool for economic development: Thanks to the confidentiality of tax records, there's no way to check to see if they really work. Brown's proposed revisions would aim to limit these tax breaks to companies that can prove they are adding jobs. Businesses have squealed at the proposed reforms because, well, many of them can't make a connection between tax breaks and jobs.

But those reforms won't affect the majority of San Francisco corporate welfare recipients.

The city last year also forewent $1,374,368 in tax revenues, thanks to a "clean tech" tax credit, according to the Tax Collector's report delivered to the Board of Supervisors this week. And it gave up $1,132,047 in tax revenue that would have entered city coffers if not for a special break for biotech companies.

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At her recent online Bernal Heights stop, candidate Joanna Rees said for every dollar spent on a tax credit for biotech, $10 came back in taxes. Perhaps it might be worth investigating?

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