New Jersey creates tracking tool for tax incentives

July 3, 2019

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The lack of oversight of New Jersey’s business tax incentives was so alarming that officials have set up an online system to monitor when the credits are transferred among firms, treasury officials said Wednesday.

The new online portal is called the Electronic Credit Evaluation, Records, and Transfer System, the treasury said in a statement. Treasury spokesman William Skaggs says the tool will be open only to state officials and the companies being issued credits.

“We were surprised and a bit alarmed to find out that previous administrations had very little oversight in place, particularly when it comes to tracking the transfer of tax credits,” Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio said in a statement.

New Jersey, like other states, allows businesses awarded the credits to sell them. Officials say about 70 percent of the incentives have been transferred to date.

Firms may want to sell credits they’ve been awarded if they have little or no business tax liability.

The treasury’s announcement came the same day the Record newspaper published findings about the sale of tax credits. Among the paper’s findings were the state had no way of tracking the transfer of credits among companies until the credit was finally cashed in with the state.

The paper also reported that from 2014 to 2017, on average 72 percent of the state’s major tax incentives had been sold.

The news comes amid a burst of activity surrounding the state’s tax credit programs.

On Monday, the incentives established under a 2013 law enacted by lawmakers and Republican Chris Christie expired. About $8 billion was awarded under Christie through programs designed to create or retain jobs in the state.

It also comes as Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy investigates the credits through a task force, which is set to hold its third meeting Monday.

The task force has already made one unspecified criminal complaint. In an interim report , it said it found that special interests helped author the law and that companies with ties to those interests then benefited directly from the legislation.

Murphy has called for overhauling how the state doles out tax incentives, specifically seeking to cap how much is awarded. The just-expired programs were uncapped.

Lawmakers sent the governor a bill extending the program for six months in order to work out a successor program, but Murphy has said he will veto it, citing problems raised by the task force, which he appointed in January.

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