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History and the Hill: Lobbying Congress on the Historic Tax Credit Just Got Easier

Published by John Leith-Tetrault on Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Journal cover May 2012   Download PDF

Historic tax credit (HTC) advocates now have a powerful new tool to use in their lobbying efforts on behalf of the federal HTC. Over the past few months, the Historic Tax Credit Coalition (HTCC) has been working with PolicyMap to geocode the addresses of certified (Part 3 approved) HTC projects from fiscal year (FY) 2002 through FY 2011 so that they can be displayed by state and congressional district. PolicyMap is a program of The Reinvestment Fund, a well-regarded community development entity (CDE) and community development financial institution (CDFI) founded 20 years ago and based in Philadelphia.   

Background
PolicyMap is a data warehouse, analysis and mapping tool that provides users access to social and economic data that can be displayed in tables, charts, reports and maps that can be viewed online and downloaded. Most importantly, subscribers can upload their own data, layer it with data sets that PolicyMap provides and share it with others. Launched in 2008, PolicyMap is the largest online geodatabase and has 30,000 registered users. Subscribers include federal, state and municipal agencies, private corporations and community development organizations that need to set policy and make investments that have neighborhood level impacts. The site’s extensive information categories include hundreds of data points related to income, education, unemployment, real estate, crime, vacancy, income, health and public investments. “PolicyMap is committed to providing access to frequently updated neighborhood level information that can help both public and private organizations make smart decisions about where they target their resources,” said Phil Vu, technical support manager at PolicyMap.

What the PolicyMap Provides for HTC Advocates
Using transaction level data provided by the National Park Service, the Historic Tax Credit Coalition has uploaded information on approximately 8,500 HTC projects completed between October 2001 and September 2011. This data will be updated annually. Data points include the address, property use, qualified rehabilitation expenditures and year placed in service. The site allows HTC advocates to view the location of historic transactions choosing among a variety of boundaries including cities, states, congressional districts and census tracts. A screen shot of Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, represented by Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond, is shown on page 58 with a dot for each of the HTC projects completed in the district during this 10-year period. PolicyMap also allows the user to view online and download the data points for each transaction in table form. A sample of the printable information on four transactions out of the 2nd District’s 283 projects is also shown on page 58. Qualified rehabilitation expenditures for these transactions were more than $964 million.

Why Your Action is Important
At the moment, everything is quiet in Congress on the tax front, but it is the quiet before the storm. Tax reform has support in both parties with President Obama putting forward a plan to reduce corporate tax rates to 28 percent. Republicans appear to be ready to sacrifice everything to get to a 25 percent rate. The only way to achieve a tax reform that is, at best, revenue neutral, is to eliminate most tax credit preferences such as federal historic, new markets and low-income housing tax credits. According to Patrick Robertson, the HTCC’s lobbyist with C2 Group, “Everything is on the table in a comprehensive tax reform debate. There are proposals on the table to eliminate or reduce the federal HTC and we need to work hard to build congressional support to protect the credit.”

The push over the next few months will be to add co-sponsors for the CAPP Act (H.R. 2479 and S. 2074). By recruiting bipartisan support for modernizing the federal HTC, the Historic Tax Credit Coalition hopes to add to its list of champions for the HTC, members who will defend it in the upcoming discussion of tax reform. The HTCC’s PolicyMap tool will help in this effort by showing Senate and House members how the HTC has impacted their states and districts.

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