The minority tax certificate is back in the news with revised bills being introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. We wrote about a version of this bill introduced in the last session of Congress here. The tax certificate offers perhaps the most meaningful route to increasing diversity in broadcast ownership. While the certificate was abolished by Congress over 25 years ago, these new bills signaling the potential for its revival merits another examination of what this policy did and why it was effective, and what is now being proposed.
The minority tax certificate was a program designed to provide broadcasters with an economic incentive to sell their stations to minority owners. Rather than directly subsidizing the potential owners, the certificate instead gave a tax break to sellers of broadcast stations that incentivized them to sell to a minority-owned business even if there were multiple bidders for their properties. If the seller sold its station to a minority-owned business, the seller could take the proceeds from the sale and roll those proceeds over into a new media property without recognizing the taxable gain from the sale. Unlike the typical like-kind exchange where the roll-over into a new property has to proceed within a few months of the sale, the tax certificate treated the sale as an involuntary sale (like the sale of a property because of a government’s exercise of eminent domain) under Section 1033 of the tax code, giving the seller several years to roll the proceeds over into a new purchase. At that point, the new property would have the same tax basis as the old – meaning that no gain would be recognized until the sale of the new property. In the closing decades of the last century, this policy spurred many sales to minority-controlled companies by broadcasters looking not to get out of the business, but instead looking to realign their holdings or to move up into larger markets. Several hundred radio and TV stations were purchased under this program in the last 20 years of the program’s existence. Why was this seemingly successful program abandoned?
Continue Reading Bills Introduced to Bring Back Tax Certificate to Foster Diversity in Broadcast Ownership – Exploring the Proposals