Ohio should beef up reporting requirements for the historic preservation tax credits and give further thought to converting the credit to a grant program, the 2020 Tax Policy Study Committee concluded in a report approved October 31. 

The report cites concerns it’s heard about too much credit money going toward “business professional fees” and not actual rehabilitation projects, noting a grant program could help address that concern. 

Other recommendations include the following: 

– “Further enhancements” to the project tracking requirement enacted earlier this year in HB233 (Schuring) to allow the state to estimate preservation credit projects’ effects on revenue forecasts. 

– Requiring applicants to show they’ll move forward with a project if awarded a credit, and setting a “reasonable period” in which the project must begin to avoid expiration of the credit award. “This will minimize projects in the queue and will provide better tracking of the credits.” 

– Consideration of a mechanism to aid in budget deliberations by showing the total allowable amount of credits that can be authorized during a biennium, estimates of credits that will be claimed each fiscal year of a biennium, and estimates of credits that have been authorized but will remain outstanding at the end of a biennium. “The intent of such a provision would be to clearly depict an estimate of the state revenues that will be directly foregone during the upcoming biennial budget and future biennia.” 

The commission voted to adopt the report with one change from the initial draft, to emphasize that any conversion to a grant program should affect only future tax credits, without disrupting existing credits.

The biennial budget, HB64 (R. Smith), required the commission to issue a report on the preservation credit and the possibility of converting it to a grant program. The commission is also required to study possible reforms to the severance tax, as well as the concept of converting Ohio’s progressive income tax to a flat-rate tax.

The full report is here.