Doryanne Hamel is a certified public accountant, certified fraud examiner and partner with Piccerelli, Gilstein & Co. LLP in Providence.
Hamel is responsible for audit, review, compilation, accounting and tax engagements for a wide range of clients, including many of the production companies that have applied for tax breaks under the state Motion Picture Production Tax Credits program. She spoke with PBN about how the process works from an auditing and accounting perspective.
PBN: What is your/your firm’s role in the accounting side of the Motion Picture Tax Credits program? How exactly does the audit process work on your end?
HAMEL: Our role is to issue a report indicating we have examined the state-certified production costs and, based on our procedures, we believe they comply with the requirements of the rules and regulations. We do this by obtaining a client-prepared, detailed summary of eligible production costs and examining the information to ensure compliance to the requirements.
PBN: How has the auditing process and/or state requirements for eligible expenses evolved over the years? What does that mean for your firm?
HAMEL: Our procedures have evolved in accordance with the attestation standards that are followed by the certified public accounting industry and revisions to the rules and regulations for the certification of the Motion Picture Production Tax Credits. For example, there has been clarification or additional guidance issued regarding the definition of “state-certified production cost.”
For our firm, this means staying on top of these changes and communicating them clearly to the clients that engage us in order to provide the best possible service to them. The quality of our work is critical to maintaining the firm’s reputation for providing these services among our clients and potential future clients, peers, state agencies, and film and motion picture production industry.
PBN: Do most of the production companies you work with seem aware of the requirements of the program in terms of documentation before hiring you? How much of your work involves educating them about proper documentation and credit eligibility?
HAMEL: Most of the production companies that have engaged us were somewhat familiar with the program requirements. We provide guidance during the engagement process, as needed, to ensure proper documentation is maintained and available to the state for the approval of the tax credits.
PBN: Have you ever had a company submit costs that are not eligible for the tax credit? If so, when and what were the circumstances?
HAMEL: We have not received any communication from the state on any significant costs that were not considered to be eligible for the tax credit. We are pleased to state that all tax credits have been approved by the state and received by our clients for whom we have provided services in relation to the Motion Picture Tax Credit Program
PBN: The program has been criticized by some lawmakers and even the state Office of Revenue Analysis for not creating the economic benefits that it was intended to. Do you have any thoughts on this? Is there more the state could or should do to ensure the money spent on Rhode Island film productions benefits the local economy?
HAMEL: What I have observed assisting productions with the Motion Picture Production Tax Credits program is certain industries – i.e., hospitality, food/beverage, transportation, retail stores, local crew jobs, rental real estate entities, contractors – appear to have benefited from bringing this industry into the state. Film productions highlight the beauty of our state, which shows other businesses and industries what Rhode Island has to offer.
The state could seek ways, such as additional tax credits, to support local film production companies that create permanent jobs – not temporary ones – and support local startup companies that focus on the needs of this industry. In the post-pandemic era, this industry could contribute to a quicker recovery to businesses that were hurt significantly during the pandemic.
By continuing to strategize, support and develop this industry that touches so many different types of businesses, there could be long-run economic benefits to the state.
Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.
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