Establishing a Business Incentive Program, November 2021


Why should an organization establish a program to harvest business incentives? That question is more easily answered by understanding how capital is acquired. Money may be obtained through earnings, savings or being awarded or gifted funds. Throughout lives, people work to earn money, accumulate it for goals and retirement or are often gifted wealth. Similarly, businesses use enterprise to profit or financing to acquire the necessary capital for additional investment and operations. Businesses conserve capital several ways. Engaging in enterprise alone will reveal cost efficiencies through the operational process and its experiences. Additionally, the utilization of a new technology or a deliberate strategy may be employed to generate cost savings. But when and how are organizations granted funds? Established within federal, state, and local legislation, there exists numerous tax credits and benefits organizations may claim or apply to utilize. Upon completion of governmental programs and objectives, businesses gain the use of tax credits. These are acquired by meeting the terms of a qualified incentive program. These tax credits may reduce a company’s taxes by granting it the allowance to deduct all or part of certain expenses from its income tax bill on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

Business incentives are regularly available to qualifying enterprises. Many programs provide tax credits just for hiring new workers that range from $1,000 to $5,000 per associate. However, newer programs are using alternative methods to generate benefits. For example, one of these more recent programs partner with many of its state’s community colleges to train new associates for nearby businesses. The community college administers the training, along with a bond issue that generates the necessary funds to pay the cost for the new associates’ education. Once the company hires the newly trained associates, the withholding tax for the new employees (typically required to be remitted to the state) is partitioned and used to pay down the bonds that were issued for instruction. By attainment of this incentive, the company received the funds necessary to train its new associates with zero out of pocket costs.

Locating Incentives

Harvesting business incentives is a continuous strategy to reduce or eliminate out of pocket expenses and capture resources currently going unused by a firm. Determining the number of incentives and potential benefit amounts to be received is an essential step towards a comprehensive incentive project. This “research” comprises the initial phase of the overall incentive progression. Future steps include tracking milestones the organization has accomplished toward the incentive, meeting the ongoing compliance obligations and communicating with governing bodies for clarity. Research evaluations should occur to establish which options are viable and attainable. This involves understanding the incentives extended to the organization by researching the details, metrics for compliance, schedule of filings and any additional nuance the programs may contain.

The first step is to catalog all incentive programs that are outstanding. The list should include details about the program itself along with what agency administers the program, the conditions needing to be met to attain the benefit and how long after attainment that benefit can be used (carryover provisions). A great place to begin the collection of existing packages is via the states’ department of revenue or equivalent taxing agency sites. These sites will contain summaries of the various programs the states and local governments have enacted. Governmental sites will list all present programs, including those currently in force but unavailable to new applicants. Since most states’ department of revenue oversee these programs, they often retain the details or compliance procedures for their outdated programs.

State and local administrations regularly update programs or amend the specifications. Take special note of any application deadlines, program end dates or carry over cut off. Governmental sites will often list representatives who may be contacted for additional information or to answer any questions. These individuals may originate from the department of revenue itself or stem from a supplemental agency (like workforce or economic development).

Who can help?

Affiliate state and local agencies are another useful resource for information pertaining to incentives. Economic development agencies and area Chambers of Commerce have personnel well versed in the specifics of state and local incentives. Many directors at economic development bureaus are connected to and foster legislation to advance business incentive bills. Due to their familiarity with their state and programs offered thru it, economic developers make great resources for examining opportunities.

These contacts can become vastly valuable especially when attempting to select the most appropriate programs for application. Assisting to comprehend the various requirements necessary to achieve benefits and various filings mandatory for compliance are other areas of their expertise. Economic developers often act as liaisons between the organization and the programs’ governing body. They also maintain a network of and familiarity with industry consultants who can assist, represent, and lead efforts for companies pursuing business incentives. Industry consultants are specialized business incentive specialists and can support every facet of the incentive harvesting process. Researching, vetting, and managing the overall process are all functions consulting firm will perform on behave of the companies they represent. Economic developers will often refer companies seeking expert assistance to a consulting service within their area.

Another group who also works closely with consultants and legislature on business incentive programs are Workforce Development Agencies. Since many incentive platforms earn tax credits based upon the hiring of new employees, workforce developers maintain the knowledge necessary to assist with pursuit of many “New Job” programs. Workforce developers leverage their extensive network of connections to better assist companies in acquiring benefits. Many of their ties include faculty from community colleges and agents within job placement services. Workforce developers can be greatly impactful with locating job incentive programs, finding qualified new employees, coordinating with community colleges for training and finalizing the process by placing workers into jobs with applicable companies.

Finally, technology and data services exist that will query thousands of incentive programs and filter to the criteria that organization prefers. These technology firms have released web-based applications that make searching the thousands of programs much easier and quicker. Once programs have been identified, the vetting segment of the initiative begins. Communications with representatives from the Department of Revenue or other governing bodies will uncover intricate details necessary to comply with the nuances of the incentive program. This step is immensely imported to ensure outdated incentive plans are filtered from the results.

Ultimately, whether technology services or Economic Developers are leveraged, the purpose of any incentive initiative is to locate and utilize all available resources accessible to the business. The expense of locating qualified labor and capital investment can be reduced or eliminated by initiating a business wide incentive program.

In Part 2 of this segment, “Implementing a Business Incentive Program”, a description of the logistics behind planning the initiative will be covered. The next phase of this article will provide a blueprint of internal and external resources necessary; a description of staff needs to facilitate the effort and decisions businesses will encounter throughout the course of their incentive exercise.

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