Five companies or individuals are responsible for nearly half of the $264 million in state income tax credits claimed for tax year 2008, according to an analysis of the latest data available compiled by the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
The Tax Commission first began releasing details about who was claiming which income tax credits in 2006 after a law specifically made the information public record. Other tax incentives such as exemptions from sales tax or gross production tax still are not public record.
In the 2008 tax year, five income tax returns claimed nearly $104.6 million in tax credits, an analysis of data published by the Office of State Finance shows.
Weyerhaeuser Co., a national lumber company, claimed $54.6 million; Terra International Inc., a fertilizer producer, claimed $19.3 million; Howard Hawks with Tenaska, a power company, claimed $10.3 million; Koch Industries Inc., a corporation based in Wichita, Kan., claimed $9.2 million; and George Kaiser, with BOK Financial, claimed $11.1 million.
Tax credits have come under scrutiny by lawmakers recently, as more and more money that normally would have come into the state as revenue is lost because of a variety of tax breaks, incentives and credits.
More than 44 different tax credits were targeted for elimination by Gov. Mary Fallin in her initial plan to reduce the statewide income tax. This week members of the House and Senate will meet behind closed doors to hammer out the details of an income tax reduction plan, but key lawmakers have said elimination of any tax credits is unlikely.
Three of the five companies claiming the most tax credits in 2008 say the incentives resulted in a vast economic impact in Oklahoma. The incentives played a significant role in the decision to invest in Oklahoma rather than other states.
The other two companies utilized tax credits for venture capital investments and declined to comment for the article.
“In a project like this, it comes down to economic analysis and calculation of rates of return and tax credits play a big part in that,” said Ron Quinn, executive vice president of Tenaska. “The fact is that adjacent states — Kansas, Texas, Missouri — are all competing for these kinds of projects.”
The roughly $450 million Tenaska Kiamichi Generating Station opened in 2003 in Pittsburg County after employing 1,051 construction and trade workers, half of whom were from Oklahoma, and spending almost $1.5 million in mortgage recording taxes and $21 million on Oklahoma goods and materials, Quinn said.
Today the plant has 35 full-time employees and will pay substantial property taxes for years to come, he said.
Tax data show the Nebraska company's chairman, Howard Hawks, claimed $10.3 million in tax credits in 2008 using the Oklahoma investments and new jobs tax credit. Quinn said Tenaska generated those tax credits through building the power plant and has carried over remaining credits since 2003. Eventually, he said, the tax credits will run out, and the company will pay full taxes to the state for a power plant that otherwise would have never existed.
Just because a tax return claims a tax credit doesn't mean the individual or company will receive that entire incentive that year or even ever. Entities and individuals only receive as much money back as what they have paid into or owe to the state — the amount of their tax liability.