Biotech payroll tax break moves closer to expansion 

San Francisco’s biotechnology tax break moved closer to an expansion Wednesday but still faces critics who say the giveaway is bad policy.

In 2004, the Board of Supervisors adopted a program to exempt biotech companies from The City’s 1.5 percent payroll tax for 7½ years. The program sunsets in 2014 and currently biotech companies who apply today would only receive the tax break for four years.

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier introduced legislation that would ensure any biotech company that applies for the tax exemption before the program’s expiration would receive the tax break for 7½ years. She said the tax incentive helps ensure the industry in San Francisco remains a “competitive force.”

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee voted Wednesday to send the legislation to the full board for a vote.

Committee chair Supervisor John Avalos said he was “not necessarily in favor” of the proposal. Avalos said the tax exemptions were a “slippery slope,” as approval for one industry creates pressure to enact similar exemptions for other industries.

Since 2004, $963,396 was the total amount of payroll tax companies would have had to pay if they weren’t granted the exemption.

The full board could vote as early as next week on the legislation. It would take six votes from the 11-member board to go into effect.

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