Updated: October 15, 2020
State governments and most local governments--including school districts--are now required to report tax abatements in their annual financial statements, specifying, in particular, the amount of revenue reduced or foregone as a result of these tax abatements. Each taxing jurisdiction reports its own portion of the lost revenue, even when it loses revenue passively to other governments' tax abatement programs. This requirement is instituted via Statement No. 77 of the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, set forth by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (read more here). Good Jobs First tracks these "GASB 77" disclosures as part of its mission to promote transparency and accountability.
Search our database on tax abatement disclosures: Tax Break Tracker
Read our blog on tax abatement disclosures: GASB 77 Chronicles
Find out how tax abatements are reported in your state: GASB 77 Roadmaps
OUR AREAS OF WORK
TABULATING ANNUAL REVENUE LOSSES
Not only do we collect tax abatement disclosures for our database (see, for example, the 50-state summary of state and local revenue losses), we frequently produce summary analyses of magnitudes, locations, and trends. Click here to see what we have tabulated for states as well as the largest cities and counties in the country in the most recent fiscal years. We have issued three studies on how much revenue school districts lose to corporate tax breaks: 2,498 out of 10,370 districts reported foregone revenue totaling $2.4 billion in 2019.
ANALYZING TAX ABATEMENTS AND INEQUALITY
Knowing the cost of economic development is a start, but it's also important to ask who is paying for it. Tax abatements benefit the corporations that receive them at the expense of public services, and this expense is more severe for places already in distress. We currently focus on the revenue losses reported by public school districts in 50 states and DC, and analyze them against student poverty (as measured by the share of students qualified for free or reduced lunches) and race. Read our 2020 study on South Carolina, where public schools lost $423 million in 2019 to corporate tax breaks--31 percent higher than two years earlier, and the districts that have the highest per-pupil revenue losses are also the ones with the highest student poverty and share of Black or Hispanic students.
INVESTIGATING UNDER-REPORTING AND NON-COMPLIANCE
As Statement No. 77 is a relatively new rule and requires governments to disclose something they might not want to, reporting level and quality are highly uneven among local governments, particularly across state lines. In addition to tabulating and analyzing revenue losses, we examine the extent of non-compliance and under-reporting. Using 2018 data, we produced an estimate for the reporting level in each of the 50 states based on a sample of the financial statements; this gives a general idea of how much GASB 77 data exists in each state. We also documented proof of non-compliance, problematic reporting practices, and uneven reporting levels across states in this special blog series. Currently, we are investigating why some places are not reporting any tax abatements when they clearly have them.
PROVIDING DATA QUERY AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
Good Jobs First is now assisting groups that seek to ensure effective compliance with Statement No. 77 so that the new data becomes useful. We have produced a set of GASB 77 Roadmaps, listing the people, organizations, and institutions in each of the 50 states that matter for GASB 77 implementation. If you want more information about how to raise the reporting rate in your state or locality, email Greg LeRoy at firstname.lastname@example.org. For data-related inquiries, contact Christine Wen at email@example.com.
(from Good Jobs First)
GASB 77 Primer and FAQs Start here to learn about GASB 77
Tax Break Tracker Webinar Watch the database demo
GASB 77 Analysis by Greg LeRoy Learn about the promises and pitfalls
Printable 2-page GASB 77 Handout Download this handy, concise guide
Full text of GASB 77
Center for Municipal Finance’s library of comprehensive annual financial reports and single audits