Legislature(2011 - 2012)HOUSE FINANCE 519

04/07/2011 08:30 AM FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HOUSE BILL NO. 118                                                                                                            
     "An Act relating to a tax credit for corporate income                                                                      
     taxes paid for qualified research and development                                                                          
    expenditures; and providing for an effective date."                                                                         
8:40:00 AM                                                                                                                    
SUSAN  K.   BELL,  COMMISSIONER,  DEPARTMENT   OF  COMMERCE,                                                                    
118  worked  to  stimulate private  sector  investment,  and                                                                    
business  activity and  expansion.  She  discussed that  the                                                                    
bill would  allow Alaskan corporate  taxpayers to  receive a                                                                    
20 percent tax credit that  would not exceed $10 million per                                                                    
tax payer  per year. The  bill required either  research and                                                                    
development  activity or  the payroll  of employees  to take                                                                    
place  in Alaska.  There  was a  "three  year look-back"  to                                                                    
ensure  that the  credit was  applied  only to  expenditures                                                                    
above a base-line. The bill  mirrored the federal definition                                                                    
related to research,  development, and allowable activities,                                                                    
including,  the discovery  of technological  information and                                                                    
the  development  of  new or  improved  business  components                                                                    
through a process  of experimentation. Qualifying activities                                                                    
included the  development of  new prototypes,  processes, or                                                                    
formulas;   building   or  improvements   of   manufacturing                                                                    
facilities;  and  the  development of  new  technologies  or                                                                    
patents, etc. Customary market  research and data collection                                                                    
were excluded.  Exploration activity  used to  determine the                                                                    
existence or quality of any  ore or mineral deposits was not                                                                    
allowable and  included mining and oil  and gas exploration;                                                                    
however,  the   industries  were  eligible   for  processes,                                                                    
manufacturing,   and   patents    under   the   legislation.                                                                    
Entrepreneurial  successes  in  the  state  included  Alaska                                                                    
berry growers  that had been exploring  the antioxidant rich                                                                    
nutraceutical value  of berries  and sawmills that  had been                                                                    
turning mill  waste into fuels.  She discussed  biofuels and                                                                    
that  the tax  credit  would help  solve  the high  moisture                                                                    
content  that  existed  particularly  in  Southeast  Alaska.                                                                    
Other examples  included the use  of tidal energy  to create                                                                    
ice at  sea that  was currently being  done at  a university                                                                    
outside   of   Alaska,   and  turning   seafood   processing                                                                    
byproducts into  valuable products.  Forty other  states had                                                                    
established  a similar  tax credit,  including North  Dakota                                                                    
that  had one  of the  most  aggressive tax  credits in  the                                                                    
nation. She communicated that  Alaska's universities had not                                                                    
been as engaged.                                                                                                                
Ms.  Bell relayed  that the  University of  Alaska Fairbanks                                                                    
chancellor Brian  Rogers had submitted  a letter  of support                                                                    
for HB 118  and the university looked  forward to increasing                                                                    
its engagement on  issues that faced Alaska  and had created                                                                    
an office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization.                                                                       
8:44:44 AM                                                                                                                    
Vice-chair Fairclough  asked whether  the tax credit  was in                                                                    
the  amount of  $10  million. Ms.  Bell  responded that  the                                                                    
credit was up  to $10 million per tax payer.  She noted that                                                                    
in  many  of   the  examples  she  had   provided  that  the                                                                    
applicable uses  would be  much less.  Industries, including                                                                    
aerospace, had  indicated that their  scale of  research was                                                                    
far above  the $10  million limit; however,  they encouraged                                                                    
the passage of the legislation.                                                                                                 
Vice-chair Fairclough  wondered how the state  would project                                                                    
whether it had the funds to  offer the credit in the future.                                                                    
She  discussed  that the  film  credit  had  a cap  of  $100                                                                    
million.  Ms. Bell  replied that  the fiscal  note from  the                                                                    
Department of Revenue was  indeterminate. She suggested that                                                                    
the committee  could consider setting  a ceiling.  She noted                                                                    
that DCEED did not anticipate any operational expenses.                                                                         
Vice-chair  Fairclough   conveyed  that  the   credit  could                                                                    
represent a substantial  amount of money that  the state may                                                                    
have  trouble forecasting.  She thought  that the  committee                                                                    
may want to  consider a ceiling. She added that  it would be                                                                    
helpful  to  use other  states  as  an example  regarding  a                                                                    
potential  ceiling and  the  use of  the  credit. She  cited                                                                    
concern that  the ability  to carry  the credit  forward for                                                                    
seven  years  increased  the  state's  liability.  She  also                                                                    
wondered  about language  that did  not allow  the use  of a                                                                    
federal credit (Page 2, Line 10).                                                                                               
Co-Chair   Stoltze   noted  that   Vice-chair   Fairclough's                                                                    
questions  would   be  addressed  during  the   fiscal  note                                                                    
Representative Wilson  wondered how  the $10  million figure                                                                    
had been  determined. Ms. Bell  replied that  the department                                                                    
had mirrored  the federal law  in order to keep  the concept                                                                    
Representative Wilson asked for  verification that a company                                                                    
could  not sell  its tax  credit. Ms.  Bell answered  in the                                                                    
affirmative.  She   detailed  that  the  credits   were  not                                                                    
transferrable and had  to be used by  the company conducting                                                                    
research and development.                                                                                                       
Representative  Gara   wondered  whether   those  conducting                                                                    
explorational  drilling would  receive over  100 percent  of                                                                    
their  cost  with  credits  that  included  the  20  percent                                                                    
taxpayer credit, a 20 percent  capital expenditure credit, a                                                                    
40  to 50  percent  deduction, and  a  federal research  and                                                                    
development credit.  He discussed that  directional drilling                                                                    
could be considered  a new or improved  component that would                                                                    
apply under  the research and development  definition of the                                                                    
credit.  He explained  that improvements  were  made on  the                                                                    
North Slope on  a daily basis in order for  the oil industry                                                                    
to   remain  competitive.   The   legislature  had   devised                                                                    
legislation that  contained numerous credits  and deductions                                                                    
to  impact the  industry.  He referred  to  charts that  had                                                                    
shown that with the  combination of deductions, credits, and                                                                    
oil  prices above  $80 a  barrel that  the state  was paying                                                                    
between 70 to 80 percent  of the activity cost. He expressed                                                                    
doubt that the  taxpayer credit should be added  to the list                                                                    
of credits that the oil industry would potentially receive.                                                                     
8:50:56 AM                                                                                                                    
CURTIS THAYER, DEPUTY  COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE,                                                                    
COMMUNITY, AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT,  replied that a company                                                                    
would not  receive both a  federal tax credit and  the state                                                                    
tax credit for  resource development. The bill  had a three-                                                                    
year  look-back and  the resource  and development  would be                                                                    
over and  above the normal  resource and development  that a                                                                    
company would expend.                                                                                                           
Representative Gara  wondered why  it would  be a  good idea                                                                    
for the state  to pay for the tax credit  in addition to the                                                                    
other credits and deductions that  existed under the oil tax                                                                    
law. He reiterated  that a company could  obtain an improved                                                                    
component through directional  drilling expansion. He stated                                                                    
that the three-year look-back would  be solved because costs                                                                    
went up  every year on the  North Slope and the  most recent                                                                    
year would always be more expensive.                                                                                            
Mr. Thayer responded that the  "exploration activity for the                                                                    
ascertation of  existence, location,  extent, or  quality of                                                                    
ore or mineral deposit" did not qualify.                                                                                        
Representative Gara responded that  some of the activity was                                                                    
not related to  exploration and there were  many things that                                                                    
happened on the North Slope that might qualify.                                                                                 
JOHANNA BALES, ACTING DIRECTOR,  TAX DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF                                                                    
REVENUE,  replied  that there  were  currently  oil and  gas                                                                    
credits including  the qualified capital  expenditure credit                                                                    
and the annual loss carry-forward  credit that could be used                                                                    
in  conjunction with  the resource  and development  credit.                                                                    
She opined  that it  was something that  could occur  but it                                                                    
would  be  under limited  circumstances.  She  noted that  a                                                                    
simple change  could be made  to the legislation  to prevent                                                                    
tax payers from receiving credits from multiple locations.                                                                      
Representative Edgmon observed that  there were two types of                                                                    
corporate  income   taxes  and   he  wondered   whether  the                                                                    
fisheries business tax  and mining license tax  would be the                                                                    
largest  participants  under the  tax  credit  that did  not                                                                    
apply to the oil industry.                                                                                                      
8:55:05 AM                                                                                                                    
Ms. Bales replied  that the corporate income  tax applied to                                                                    
all  industries, but  there were  minor  differences in  the                                                                    
statute  related to  oil and  gas  companies. She  explained                                                                    
that all companies  that paid corporate income  tax would be                                                                    
eligible  for  the  credit   for  research  and  development                                                                    
outside of exploration activities.                                                                                              
Representative  Edgmon asked  whether  all industries  would                                                                    
have an equal  opportunity to take advantage  of the credit.                                                                    
Ms. Bell responded in the  affirmative. She relayed that the                                                                    
intent    had   been    to   help    stimulate   investment,                                                                    
manufacturing, and innovation.                                                                                                  
Representative  Doogan asked  whether the  credits would  be                                                                    
stackable  with any  other existing  credits that  a company                                                                    
was  eligible  for. Ms.  Bales  responded  that the  credits                                                                    
would not be stackable. She  explained that if a company was                                                                    
allowed a  federal credit  that it  could choose  either the                                                                    
state  or federal  corporate income  tax credit.  In limited                                                                    
circumstances   the  expenditures   for  the   resource  and                                                                    
development credit  could be  utilized for  some of  the oil                                                                    
and gas tax credits as well.                                                                                                    
8:58:06 AM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
8:58:38 AM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Doogan   asked  whether  the   credits  were                                                                    
stackable in  some circumstances.  Ms. Bales  responded that                                                                    
the  credits  were  not stackable  because  there  were  two                                                                    
separate  tax  programs  involved. She  expounded  that  the                                                                    
corporate income taxes could only be used with one credit.                                                                      
Representative Doogan wondered whether  the tax credit could                                                                    
potentially be an additional 20  percent on top of other tax                                                                    
breaks  that the  state provided  to the  oil industry.  Ms.                                                                    
Bales responded  in the affirmative.  She read from  Page 2,                                                                    
Line  11 of  the bill,  "any  federal credit  that had  been                                                                    
apportioned to  the state and  claimed under  AS 43.20.021,"                                                                    
and explained that  the removal of the  words "AS 43.20.021"                                                                    
and  the insertion  of the  words "under  this title"  would                                                                    
eliminate the ability to use  the expenses in a separate tax                                                                    
credit  program.  She  expressed that  the  committee  might                                                                    
consider  making  the revision  if  it  had strong  concerns                                                                    
about   the  issue,   but   she  did   not   know  how   the                                                                    
administration  would feel  about  the  change. She  relayed                                                                    
that  the circumstances  in which  a company  could use  the                                                                    
same  expenditures  for  credits  could only  occur  when  a                                                                    
company had a loss in the oil and gas tax.                                                                                      
Representative  Doogan was  concerned that  Alaska could  be                                                                    
responsible  for  a $300,000  million  per  year program  if                                                                    
there  were  a  high  number of  oil  companies  that  could                                                                    
potentially  take advantage  of the  $10 million  credit. He                                                                    
stressed that he did not support the portion of the bill.                                                                       
9:03:16 AM                                                                                                                    
Representative Guttenberg wondered how  it would be possible                                                                    
to know the  tax credit was working in the  intended way. He                                                                    
asked whether there would be  an audit or accountability for                                                                    
the   credits.  Ms.   Bales   responded   that  the   credit                                                                    
piggybacked  the  federal  definition  that  was  relatively                                                                    
strict. She  detailed that tax  payers would be  required to                                                                    
provide  proof  that  research   and  development  had  been                                                                    
conducted in  Alaska and that  it met the definition  of the                                                                    
federal  law. The  department  would  provide oversight  and                                                                    
would report how many people  took advantage of the program.                                                                    
The  intent  of   the  legislation  was  to   bring  in  new                                                                    
technology, industry, and  research and development activity                                                                    
into the state.                                                                                                                 
Representative  Guttenberg  wondered  whether  the  research                                                                    
would be  public at  any point. Ms.  Bales replied  that the                                                                    
information  may or  may not  be reported  due to  tax payer                                                                    
confidentiality.   Companies  were   hesitant  to   disclose                                                                    
business processes  that could  help their  competition. She                                                                    
observed that  there was  a balance between  a need  to know                                                                    
and   public   curiosity  and   that   faith   in  the   tax                                                                    
administration was important.                                                                                                   
9:06:11 AM                                                                                                                    
DAN   WHITE,   ASSOCIATE   VICE  CHANCELLOR   OF   RESEARCH,                                                                    
UNIVERSITY  OF ALASKA  FAIRBANKS (UAF)(via  teleconference),                                                                    
supported HB 118 and believed  that it would allow the state                                                                    
to provide an  incentive to businesses to  take advantage of                                                                    
new opportunities. The legislation  helped contribute to the                                                                    
university's  mission to  conduct  resource and  development                                                                    
and  move it  into the  private sector  that was  a critical                                                                    
element of  economic development  in Alaska. He  stated that                                                                    
the bill would build a  bridge between business and industry                                                                    
and that  funded research  at the  university would  lead to                                                                    
job growth  and economic diversification.  Businesses gained                                                                    
competitive  advantages  in  the   global  market  when  UAF                                                                    
conducted applied  research and  licensed the  technology to                                                                    
the private sector.  He detailed that the  link was enhanced                                                                    
when  businesses  were  able   to  invest  in  resource  and                                                                    
ALLAN   JOHNSTON,   ENCORE   CAREER,  TEAM   NETWORK,   (via                                                                    
teleconference), voiced  strong support of  the legislation.                                                                    
He was  very supportive  of economic development  in Alaska.                                                                    
He  had been  a  sponsor of  business  plan competitions  at                                                                    
Alaska's universities. He discussed  that Alaska had come in                                                                    
last in  the entrepreneurial capacity index  that was listed                                                                    
in the  2008 Milken  survey. It  was important  to encourage                                                                    
the ability  to dream  big in  Alaska. He  thought it  was a                                                                    
good idea  to put  a cap  on the amount  the bill  would pay                                                                    
out. He  expressed that the  state needed to  take advantage                                                                    
of  the many  opportunities that  were available  and to  be                                                                    
competitive  on a  national and  global basis.  He supported                                                                    
the  university's ability  to commercialize  and its  tie to                                                                    
the private sector.                                                                                                             
9:10:16 AM                                                                                                                    
CHRISTI  BELL, DIRECTOR,  UNIVERSITY  OF  ALASKA CENTER  FOR                                                                    
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT  (via teleconference), stated  that the                                                                    
university  system was  very  supportive of  HB  118 and  of                                                                    
greater   private  sector   research  and   development  and                                                                    
opportunities  through  public and  private  collaborations.                                                                    
With  the  tax  credit   the  university  could  market  the                                                                    
incentives  to  private firms  to  encourage  assets at  the                                                                    
university  such as  the  super  computing system.  Research                                                                    
helped  the ability  to offer  scholarships  and would  help                                                                    
students  grow, to  foster innovation,  and to  create jobs.                                                                    
The National  Science Foundation  had found that  73 percent                                                                    
of finance  papers cited that  industry patents  were funded                                                                    
through  contracts  with   university  research  operations.                                                                    
Alaska was struggling  to bring new research  to the economy                                                                    
and  needed  to  be  competitive   in  new  innovations  and                                                                    
processes.  She emphasized  that  the  state ranked  between                                                                    
43rd and 51st in a  national survey. She discussed that many                                                                    
states offered  resource and  development tax  incentives to                                                                    
attract  corporations   and  businesses  and   to  encourage                                                                    
investment in resource and development facilities.                                                                              
9:15:07 AM                                                                                                                    
PETER   STITZEL,  SITKA   MEAL,   OIL,   AND  GELATIN   (via                                                                    
teleconference),   testified  in   strong  support   of  the                                                                    
legislation.  He believed  that  supported research  through                                                                    
the resource  and development  tax credit  could effectively                                                                    
inspire  firms  to  establish  Alaska-based  operations.  He                                                                    
expressed that  wild Alaska salmon  waste was a  special and                                                                    
rare opportunity and  that its presence in  Sitka had caught                                                                    
the  attention   of  nutraceutical,   feed,  and   pet  food                                                                    
companies.  He thought  the Sitka  facility would  become an                                                                    
incubator   for   the    offshoots   of   many   businesses,                                                                    
particularly in the nutraceutical business.                                                                                     
BILL POPP, PRESIDENT AND  CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, ANCHORAGE                                                                    
ECONOMIC   DEVELOPMENT  CORPORATION   (via  teleconference),                                                                    
spoke  in support  of  HB  118. He  thought  the bill  would                                                                    
diversify Alaska's  economy by  attracting new  business and                                                                    
innovation   including  tech   transfer  opportunities   and                                                                    
venture capital. He believed  the legislation represented an                                                                    
important component in a strategy  to develop new industries                                                                    
in information technology,  renewable energy, life sciences,                                                                    
biotech, and other.                                                                                                             
Co-Chair Thomas CLOSED public testimony.                                                                                        
Vice-chair  Fairclough  asked   whether  the  administration                                                                    
objected  to  a  CS  that would  eliminate  the  ability  to                                                                    
supplement  other  oil  and  gas  credits.  She  cited  that                                                                    
Lockheed  Martin  had  expressed interest  in  facility  and                                                                    
pharmaceutical   companies  could   be   big  ticket   items                                                                    
interested in research and development.                                                                                         
9:19:55 AM                                                                                                                    
Ms.  Bell responded  that the  department would  discuss the                                                                    
idea internally  and would  get back  to the  committee. She                                                                    
explained that  DCCED wanted to  be as open as  possible and                                                                    
recognized the existence of  technological challenges in all                                                                    
industries and  the opportunity  for processes  and patents,                                                                    
Vice-chair  Fairclough relayed  that she  had advocated  for                                                                    
the  oil  and gas  tax  credits  and  was open  to  economic                                                                    
development;  however, she  believed  that oil  and gas  tax                                                                    
credits belonged in the oil and  gas bill and not in HB 118.                                                                    
She  asked  the department  to  provide  information on  how                                                                    
other  states used  the tax  credit. She  expressed that  in                                                                    
terms  of fiscal  stability that  it was  important to  know                                                                    
what the  limit was that the  state could expend in  a year,                                                                    
but that job creation would  help ease her concern about the                                                                    
amount of  the $10 million  credit. She was interested  in a                                                                    
cap on  the amount and  did not want stackable  credits. She                                                                    
wondered why  a seven-year  carry-forward of the  credit was                                                                    
necessary for a large corporation  that was not dependent on                                                                    
stability and felt that the time period was too long.                                                                           
Representative Gara wondered whether  the credit would apply                                                                    
to  a  new tobacco  or  liquor  store  because of  the  "new                                                                    
component"  definition and  what  would  preclude them  from                                                                    
applying  under the  legislation. He  was troubled  that the                                                                    
state  would  be  incorporating   a  federal  definition  of                                                                    
research  and  development  and   cited  a  portion  of  the                                                                    
language: "for  development of a  new or  improved component                                                                    
of  the tax  payer." He  added that  he was  a proponent  of                                                                    
incentivizing high tech and new innovative business.                                                                            
Ms. Bell replied that the  first threshold that research and                                                                    
development  was required  to  meet  included the  following                                                                    
four items: "purposes  discovering information technological                                                                    
in  nature;  the application  of  which  is intended  to  be                                                                    
useful in the development of  a new or improved component of                                                                    
the  tax   payer;  substantially   all  of   the  activities                                                                    
constitute   a   process   of  experimentation;   and,   the                                                                    
experimentation is for a qualifying activity or purpose."                                                                       
9:25:08 AM                                                                                                                    
Representative Gara wondered  whether seafood companies that                                                                    
filed  as  C corporations  would  not  be eligible  for  the                                                                    
credit  because they  paid the  raw  fish tax  and were  not                                                                    
corporations. Ms.  Bell responded  that in order  to qualify                                                                    
the company  would need  to be  an Alaska tax  payer as  a C                                                                    
corporation eligible for corporate tax payers.                                                                                  
Representative  Gara recommended  a sunset  and a  report to                                                                    
allow the  legislature to review  the credit in  three years                                                                    
and to assess whether it had been working.                                                                                      
Co-Chair Thomas stressed that  communities were dependent on                                                                    
the raw  fish tax and  he hoped companies were  eligible for                                                                    
the credit.                                                                                                                     
9:27:59 AM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Doogan  requested  a better  explanation  of                                                                    
what would  be allowable  under the  bill. He  was concerned                                                                    
about the use  of federal tax codes  because the information                                                                    
was  not  very  specific  and the  language  was  broad.  He                                                                    
wondered  what  was included  under  the  federal code  that                                                                    
allowed development of new technology.                                                                                          
HB  118  was  HEARD  and   HELD  in  committee  for  further                                                                    
9:29:49 AM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
9:36:16 AM                                                                                                                    

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