RULE 168.00.01-006 - Arkansas Tourism Development Act

RULE 168.00.01-006. Arkansas Tourism Development Act

I. Introduction

To encourage growth in Arkansas's tourism industry, Act 291 was passed by the 81st General Assembly in 1997 and amended in 1999 and again in 2001. The legislation's purpose is to stimulate expansion of Arkansas's tourism industry by offering economic incentives to qualified private development projects in the form of sales and income tax credits. Since the intent is to generate additional tourist traffic to Arkansas, each proposed project must develop a marketing plan that targets 25% of its visitors from out-of-state and meet other requirements. See Arkansas Code Annotated § 15-11-501 et seq.

For more information, please contact:

Arkansas Department of Economic Development

Business Development Section

One Capitol Mall

Little Rock, AR 72201

(501) 682-7675

II. Definitions

A. "Agreement" means an agreement entered into pursuant to § 15-11-506, by and between the director and an approved company, with respect to a tourism attraction project;

B. "Approved company" means any eligible company that is seeking to undertake a tourism attraction project and is approved by the director pursuant to § 15-11-505 and § 15-11-506;

C. "Approved costs" mean:

1. Obligations incurred for labor and to vendors, contractors, subcontractors, builders, suppliers, delivery men, and material men in connection with the acquisition, construction, equipping, and installation of a tourism attraction project;

2. The costs of acquiring real property or rights in real property in connection with a tourism attraction project, and any costs incidental thereto;

3. The cost of contract bonds and of insurance of all kinds that may be required or necessary during the course of the acquisition, construction, equipping, and installation of a tourism attraction project which is not paid by the vendor, supplier, delivery man, contractor, or otherwise provided;

4. All costs of architectural and engineering services, including, but not limited to, estimates, plans and specifications, preliminary investigations, and supervision of construction and installation, as well as for the performance of all the duties required by or consequent to the acquisition, construction, equipping, and installation of a tourism attraction project;

5. All costs required to be paid under the terms of any contract for the acquisition, construction, equipping, and installation of a tourism attraction project;

6. All costs required for the installation of utilities in connection with a tourism attraction project, including, but not limited to, water, sewer, sewage treatment, gas, electricity, and communications, and including off-site construction of utility extensions paid for by the approved company; and

7. All other costs comparable with those described in this subsection.

D. "Director" means the director of the Arkansas Department of Economic Development or the director's designated representative;

E. "Eligible company" means any corporation, limited liability company, partnership, registered limited liability partnership, sole proprietorship, or business trust, or any other entity operating or intending to operate a tourism attraction project, whether owned or leased, within the state that meets the standards promulgated by the director pursuant to § 15-11-504;

F. "Final approval" means the action taken by the director authorizing the eligible company to receive inducements under § 15-11-507 and Section 5 of Act 1135 of 1999;

G. "High unemployment" means an unemployment rate equal to or in excess of one hundred fifty percent (150%) of the state's average unemployment rate for the preceding calendar year as specified by statewide annual labor force statistics compiled by the Arkansas Employment Security Department, when the state's annual average unemployment rate is six percent (6%) or below. When the state's annual average unemployment rate is above six percent (6%), "high unemployment" means equal to or in excess of three percent (3%) above the state's average unemployment rate for the preceding calendar year as specified by statewide annual labor force statistics compiled by the Arkansas Employment Security Department.

H. "Increased state sales tax liability" means that portion of an approved company's reported state sales (gross receipts) tax liability resulting from taxable sales of goods and services to its customers at the tourism attraction for any monthly sales tax reporting period after the approved company provides the certification required by § 15-11-507(b) of act 1135 of 1999, which exceeds the reported state sales tax liability for sales to its customers for the same month in the calendar year immediately preceding such certification. If an approved company purchases an existing tourism attraction which was selling goods and services at the time of purchase and which may or may not have been entitled to the benefits of this subchapter prior to such purchase, the 'increased state sales tax liability' resulting from any investments in the tourism attraction by the new owners means that portion of the approved company's reported state sales (gross receipts) tax liability resulting from taxable sales of goods and services to its customers at the tourism attraction for any monthly sales tax reporting period after the approved company provides the certification required by § 15-11-507(b) of act 1135 of 1999, which exceeds the reported state sales tax liability for sales made by the seller of the tourism attraction for the same month in the calendar year immediately preceding such certification. The prohibitions against disclosure of confidential tax information provided in § 26-18-301 shall not apply for purposes of computing the credit available.

I. "Inducements" means the Arkansas sales tax credit as prescribed in § 15-11-507 and/or the Arkansas income tax credit as prescribed in Section 5 of Act 1135 of 1999;

J. "New full-time permanent employee" means a position or job which was created as a result of a tourism attraction project, and which is filled by one (1) or more employees or contractual employees who were Arkansas taxpayers during the year in which the tax credits or incentives were earned or claimed. The position or job held by such employee or employees must have been filled for at least twenty-six (26) consecutive weeks, with an average of at least thirty (30) hours per week. Provided, however, in order to qualify for the provisions of this subchapter, a contractual employee must be offered a benefit package comparable to a direct employee of the business seeking incentives;

K. "Tourism attraction" includes:

1. A cultural or historical site;

2. A recreational or entertainment facility;

3. An area of natural phenomenon or scenic beauty;

4. A theme park;

5. An amusement or entertainment park;

6. An indoor or outdoor play or music show;

7. Botanical gardens;

8. Cultural or educational centers.

L. "Tourism attraction" does not include:

1. Lodging facilities, unless the facilities constitute a portion of a tourism attraction project and represent less that sixty percent (60%) of the total approved costs of the tourism attraction project, or unless the project meets the special rules outlined in Section 6(a) and Section 6(b) of Act 1135 of 1999;

2. Facilities that are primarily devoted to the retail sales of goods, unless the goods are created at the site of the tourism attraction project or if the sale of goods is incidental to the tourism attraction project;

3. Facilities that are not open to the general public;

4. Facilities that do not serve as a likely destination where individuals who are not residents of the state would remain overnight in commercial lodging at or near the tourism attraction project;

5. Facilities owned by the State of Arkansas or a political subdivision of the state; or

6. Facilities established for the purpose of conducting legalized gambling. However, a facility regulated under § 23-110-101 et seq. or § 23-111-101 et seq. shall be a tourism attraction for purposes of this subchapter for any approval project as outlined in subsection (j)(1) of Act 1135 of 1999 or for an approved project relating to pari-mutuel racing at the facility and not for establishing a casino or for offering casino-style gambling.

M. "Tourism attraction project" or "project" means the acquisition, including the acquisition of real estate by leasehold interest with a minimum term of ten (10) years, construction, and equipping of a tourism attraction; the construction and installation of improvements to facilities necessary or desirable for the acquisition, construction, and installation of a tourism attraction, including, but not limited to, surveys; installation of utilities, which may include, water, sewer, sewage treatment, gas, electricity, communications, and similar facilities; and off-site construction of utility extensions to the boundaries of the real estate on which the facilities are located, all of which are to be used to improve the economic situation of the approved company in a manner that shall allow the approved company to attract persons.

III. To Qualify for the Program a Business Must

A. Be an eligible business, as defined by one or more of the following:

1. Cultural or historical site

2. Recreational or entertainment facilities

3. Areas of natural phenomenon or scenic beauty

4. Theme parks

5. Amusement or entertainment parks

6. Indoor or outdoor plays or music shows

7. Botanical gardens

8. Cultural or educational center

9. A lodging facility may qualify, but only if it meets one of the following tests:

(a) It must constitute a portion of a tourism attraction project and represent less than 60% of the total approved costs of the tourism attraction project; or

(b) If the approved cost for the lodging facility exceeds $5,000,000 and one of the following is met:

(1) The lodging facility is attached to a convention center containing a minimum of 75,000 square feet, or

(2) The lodging facility contains a minimum of twelve thousand square feet of meeting or exhibit space.

B. Eligible proposals do not have to be new construction projects. Expansion and/or purchase of existing properties may be eligible. However, the amount of credit can only be taken against the increased sales tax liability over and above the amount paid by the business being sold or expanded for the corresponding tax month of the previous year.

C. Privately owned facilities constructed on state or federal lands (via a minimum 10-year lease) may be eligible.

D. Ineligible businesses include:

1. Lodging facilities (unless it meets the tests described above);

2. Retail sales facilities (unless the goods are created on-site or if sales are incidental to the overall project);

3. Facilities not open to the general public;

4. Facilities not likely to attract overnight guests from outside the state who would stay in commercial lodging near the attraction;

5. Facilities owned by the State of Arkansas or its political subdivisions;

6. Gambling facilities (unless for approved pari-mutuel racing currently regulated under Arkansas Code)

IV. Powers and Duties of the Department of Economic Development

A. The Director or designee of the Arkansas Department of Economic Development will review each application, making certain the project proposal meets the following minimum criteria:

1. the project shall have a marketing plan designed to attract at least 25% of its visitors from out-of-state;

2. shall cost at least $500,000;

3. shall have a significant and positive impact on the State, including an analysis of whether the project will compete directly with existing tourism attractions in the state;

4. shall produce sufficient revenues and public demand to be operating and open to the public on a regular and persistent basis;

5. shall be likely to attract overnight guests from outside the state who would stay in commercial lodging near the attraction;

6. shall not adversely affect existing employment in the state;

7. and other criteria that the Director may deem to apply.

B. Once the application has been reviewed, the applicant will be notified in writing of the results of the review.

C. Projects which have filed an application for benefits under Act 291 of 1997 with the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism prior to April 30, 1999 shall be eligible for review by the Arkansas Department of Economic Development. Should the applicants be approved for participation in the program after subsequent review by the Director, the Director may choose to include the entire eligible costs of the applicant as approved costs of the program, regardless of the date the investment was made. Any tax credits received by these particular approved companies shall be available to be applied, even retroactively, to sales taxes collected by the approved companies after May 1, 1999.

D. Upon granting approval, the Director shall enter into an agreement with an approved company with respect to its tourism attraction project. The terms and provisions of each agreement shall include, but shall not be limited to:

1. The amount of approved costs, determined through negotiations with the Director and applicant

2. A date by which the approved company shall have completed the tourism attraction project (the Completion Date). Within 3 months after the Completion Date, the approved company shall document the actual cost of the project through a certification of such costs by an independent certified public accountant acceptable to the Director. The Completion Date must be within 24 months following the contract signature date, unless an extension is granted.

3. A contract term of ten (10) years commencing upon the completion date, provided that the completion date occurs within (2) years of the date of the agreement. The term of the agreement may be extended for a period of two (2) years by the Director if:

(i) such extension is also approved by the Director of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration or

(ii) the approved company has failed to complete the project as a result of unanticipated and unavoidable construction delays or a change in business ownership.

4. In any sales tax reporting period during which an agreement is in effect, if the increased state sales tax liability of the approved company exceeds the state sales tax credit available to the approved company, then the approved company shall pay the excess to the state as sales tax;

5. Within 45 days after the end of each calendar year, the approved company shall supply the Director with such reports and certifications as the Director may request demonstrating to the satisfaction of the Director that the approved company is in compliance with the provisions of the Act; and

6. The approved company shall not receive a credit against the Arkansas sales tax imposed by Ark. Code Ann. § 26-52-301 et seq. with respect to any calendar year if in any calendar year following the first year of the agreement or the agreed upon completion date, the project is not operating and open to the public on a regular and persistent basis:

7. The Agreement shall not be transferable or assignable by the approved company without the written consent of the Director.

8. If the approved company utilizes sales tax credits which are subsequently disallowed, then the approved company will be liable for the payment to the Director of the Department of Finance and Administration of all taxes resulting from the disallowance of the credits plus applicable penalties and interest.

E. The Arkansas Department of Economic Development's approval of any application is for content only. It does not constitute approval of all items listed on the application or the project plan. These items will be reviewed and either approved or ruled ineligible upon an audit by the Revenue Division of the Department of Finance and Administration (DF&A).

V. Terms of the Incentive Agreement

A. The following types of expenses directly related to the tourism attraction project may be included in the total approved costs that are eligible for sales tax credits:

1. Land (outright purchase or leasehold interest with 10-year minimum term);

2. Buildings at the tourism attraction site;

3. Land surveys and architectural/engineering fees;

4. Cost of contract bonds and insurance;

5. Installation of utilities paid by the approved company (including off-site extensions that are project specific);

6. Equipping of the tourist attraction; and

7. Other costs comparable to those described above can be approved on a case-by-case basis.

B. Certain approved costs will be recognized as pre-construction costs and will be eligible for sales tax credits regardless of the date the costs were incurred. Those are: project planning costs, feasibility studies, architectural fees, right-of way purchases, and land.

VI. Administration of Benefits

A. State Income Tax Credits

1. Upon notification from the director that an approved company has entered into a tourism attraction project agreement and is entitled to the income tax credit provided by this act, the Director of the Department of Finance and Administration shall provide the approved company with such forms and instruction as are necessary to claim those credits.

2. The Revenue Division of the Department of Finance and Administration shall authorize an income tax credit equal to one hundred (100) times the average hourly wage paid, with a maximum of $3,000 per net new full-time permanent employee of an approved tourism attraction project qualifying for benefits.

3. In the event the project is located in a high unemployment county, the amount of the tax credit shall be equal to four hundred (400) times the average hourly wage paid to all new full-time permanent employees, with a maximum credit of $6,000 per employee.

4. As used herein, the term "new full time permanent employee(s)" shall mean a person who (i) is an Arkansas taxpayer in the year the credits are claimed; (ii) is employed in a position or job created by virtue of the project, and (iii) has filled such position or job for a period of twenty-six (26) consecutive weeks at an average work week of not less than thirty (30) hours.

5. The income tax credits may be applied against company income tax for the succeeding nine (9) years or until the credit is entirely used, which ever occurs first.

6. The Director shall provide a copy of each agreement entered into with an approved company to the Director of the Department of Finance and Administration.

B. Sales and Use Tax Credits

1. Upon receiving notification from the Director that an approved company has entered into a tourism attraction project agreement and is entitled to the sales tax credits provided by this Act, the Director of the Department of Finance and Administration shall provide the approved company with such forms and instructions as are necessary to claim the credits.

2. An approved company whose agreement provides that it shall expend approved costs of more than $500,000 but less than $1,000,000 shall be entitled to a credit if the company certifies to the Director of the Department of Finance and Administration that it has expended at least $500,000 in approved costs, and the Director certifies that the approved company is in compliance with this Act. The Director of the Department of Finance and Administration shall then issue a sales tax credit memorandum to the approved company equal to 10% of the approved costs. Subsequent requests for credit for additional certified approved costs in excess of $500,000 but less than $1,000,000 shall result in a sales tax credit equal to 10% of the approved costs. If the company subsequently expends additional certified approved costs so that the total amount of expended approved costs exceeds $1,000,000, then the sales tax credit memorandum shall equal 25% of the approved costs in excess of $1,000,000.

3. An approved company whose agreement provides that it shall expend approved costs in excess of $1,000,000 shall be entitled to a credit if the company certifies to the Director of the Department of Finance and Administration that it has expended at least $1,000,000 in approved costs and the Director certifies that the approved company is in compliance with this Act. The Director of the Department of Finance and Administration shall then issue a sales tax credit memorandum to the approved company equal to 25% of the approved costs. The credit on all subsequent additional certified approved costs shall be equal to 25% of the costs.

4. The Director of the Department of Finance and Administration may require proof of expenditures. Additional credit memorandums may be issued as the approved company certifies additional expenditures of approved costs.

5. No sales tax credit memorandum shall be issued for any approved costs expended after the expiration of two (2) years from the date the agreement was signed by the Director and the approved company. However, the Director, with the advice and consent of the Director of the Department of Finance and Administration, may authorize sales tax credits for approved costs expended up to four (4) years from the date the agreement was signed if the Director determines that the failure to complete the project within two (2) years resulted from:

(a) Unanticipated and unavoidable delay in the construction of the project;

(b) The project, as originally planned, will require more than two (2) years to complete; or

(c) A change in business ownership or business structure resulting from a merger or acquisition.

(1) The reasons listed above shall be brought to the attention of the Director prior to the expiration of the initial two (2) year period, and a request shall be made to the Director during the two (2) years for an extension of time.

6. The credit memorandum issued may be used to offset a portion of the reported state sales (gross receipts) tax liability of the approved company for all sales tax reporting periods following the issuance of the credit memorandum. One hundred per cent (100%) of the credit may be used to offset increased sales tax liability during the first year, with any unused credits carried forward for nine (9) additional years. The credits are also subject to the following limitations:

(a) Only increased state sales tax liability resulting from sales by the approved company may be offset by the issued credit;

(b) All issued credit memorandums shall expire at the end of the month following expiration of the Agreement;

(c) The approved company shall have no obligation to refund or otherwise return any amount of this credit to the person from whom the sales tax was collected.

(d) By April 1 of each year, the Director of the Department of Finance and Administration shall certify to the Director the state sales and income tax liability of the approved companies receiving inducements under this section, and the amount of state sales and income tax credits taken during the preceding calendar year.

(e) The Director of the Department of Finance and Administration may promulgate administrative regulations as are necessary for the proper administration of this Act. The Director of the Department of Finance and Administration may also develop such forms and instructions as are necessary for an approved company to claim the sales and income tax credits provided by this act.

(f) The Director of the Department of Finance and Administration shall have the authority to obtain any information necessary from the approved company and the Director of Economic Development to verify that approved companies have received the proper amounts of sales tax credits as authorized by this act; the Director of the Department of Finance and Administration shall demand the repayment of any credits taken in excess of the credit allowed by this act.

(g) For amusement or entertainment parks tourism attraction projects approved by the director between April 1, 1999 and September 1, 1999, the director is authorized to allow an exemption from the payment of sales and use taxes on certain purchases of materials used in the construction of a building or buildings for housing the tourism amusement or entertainment park and machinery or equipment to be located in or in connection with the approved tourism attraction project. In exchange for this exemption, the sales tax credit provided by this section shall be ratably reduced by the amount of sales and use taxes that are not collected due to the exemption granted under this subdivision. The sales tax exemption shall expire on July 1, 2001. The Chief Fiscal Officer (The Director of Finance and Administration) of the State shall have an audit conducted to assure compliance with the exemption and sales tax credit exchange allowed in this subdivision. In the event that it is found that the approved company receiving the benefits contained in this section has failed to comply with the conditions herein, that company shall be disqualified from receiving any further benefits under this act and shall be liable for payment of such sales and use taxes as may be due after the sales and use tax credits provided for in this section are disallowed, plus interest.

C. Calculation of Arkansas Income Tax Credits

1. This program provides an Arkansas income tax credit to the average hourly wage of each new employee times the number of new employees times a multiplier of 100, with a $3,000 cap per employee.

2. In high unemployment counties, a multiplier of 400 is used, with a cap of $6,000 per employee.

3. The calculations of the income tax credit is as follows:

D. Calculation of Sales Tax Credit

1. This program offers a sales tax credit of 10% of total costs to a company that has approved cost of more than $500,000 but less than $1,000,000. If the approved costs exceed $1,000,000 then the sales tax credit will be 25% of the approved costs in excess of $1,000,000.

2. If the company shows that it will spend in excess of $1,000,000 then it will be issued a credit memorandum for 25% of its approved costs.

3. The calculation of the sales tax credit is as follows:

VII. Restrictions

No person or entity may take advantage of this program and any other tax incentive program.

(12/10/2001)

The following state regulations pages link to this page.