Florida’s Enterprise Zone program to end; some incentives remain

Florida's Enterprise Zone program, one of the most cost effective incentive programs in Sunshine State history, will vanish at the end of 2015. 

The Florida Legislature failed to renew the program, which was by law set to sunset at the end of year, but replaced it – in a way – with some other more limited tax and other economic incentive programs. 

Created by Florida lawmakers of a past era, the program was designed to be a ticket out of poverty for small businesses seeking to find a firm financial footing in today’s marketplace. In Immokalee alone, its Enterprise Zone provided over $200,000 in tax incentives and other assistance to nearly 20 businesses over the past decade. 

The replacement bill – signed into law June 16 by Florida Gov. Rick Scott and now Chapter 2015-221, Laws of Florida – preserves state incentives for certain businesses which are already taking advantage of incentive agreements with the state and currently located within enterprise zones. The bill defines the term “eligible business” to mean a business that entered into a contract with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) between January 1, 2012, and July 1, 2015, for a project that is located in an enterprise zone under the following programs:

  • The Local Government Distressed Area Matching Grant Program;
  • The Qualified Defense Contractor and Space Flight Business Tax Refund Program;
  • The Qualified Target Industry (QTI) Business Tax Refund Program;
  • The Brownfield Redevelopment Bonus Refund Program;
  • The High-Impact Business Performance (HIPI) Grant Program;
  • The Quick Action Closing Fund (QAC) Program; and
  • The Innovation Incentive Program (IIP).

The bill provides that an eligible business may apply for the following enterprise zone incentives, if t contract with the DEO is still deemed active by the department and has not expired or terminated:

  • Exemption for a Licensed Child Care Facility operating in an Enterprise Zone;
  • Sales Tax Refund for Building Materials;
  • Sales Tax Refund for Business Property;
  • Sales Tax Exemption for Electrical Energy;
  • Enterprise Zone Jobs Tax Credit (Sales & Use Tax);
  • Enterprise Zone Jobs Tax Credit (Corporate Income Tax); and
  • Enterprise Zone Property Tax Credit (Corporate Income Tax).

DEO will certify that applicants are eligible for enterprise zone incentives prior to the Department of Revenue’s final processing of incentive applications.

The bill also extends the expiration date of the Community Contribution Tax Credit Program to June 30, 2018 and expands eligibility to include projects designed to provide housing opportunities for persons with special needs and provides $21.4 million in annual funding for projects that provide homeownership opportunities for low-income and very-low-income households or housing opportunities for persons with special needs and $3.5 million for all other projects.

“Persons with special needs” is defined in current statute to include adults requiring independent living services, young adults formerly in foster care, survivors of domestic violence, and people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, or veterans’ disability benefits.

The bill also allows projects which are required to take place in a designated Enterprise Zone to continue to qualify for the Community Contribution Tax Credit after the Enterprise Zone program sunsets by stating that a project may qualify if it is in an area that was in an Enterprise Zone as of May 1, 2015.

The bill prevents the definitions of “community contribution” and “project” needed for administration of the program from sun-setting prior to the sunset of the program.

The staff of the Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency will be happy to talk over the changes and help business owners who may fall into any of the special categories. 

Photo by Jimmy Emerson on Flickr

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