Pennsylvania offers businesses a huge selection of economic development subsidies: tax breaks, grants, loans, loan guarantees, and bond financing. Most are administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). Cities also offer property tax abatements for different types of construction projects.

Multiple state and local incentives are often bundled together to lure large companies to the state. In 2012, the state awarded Royal Dutch Shell $1.65 billion in tax credits to have the company’s new ethane cracker plant built in Pennsylvania instead of neighboring Ohio and West Virginia. The site was then included in a Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone, further reducing its local tax obligations.

Between the DCED’s online library of documents and reports, the “Investment Tracker” database of subsidies, and the State Treasury’s repository of contracts, recipient-level disclosure is ample. The Keystone Opportunity Zone program, the state’s most expensive subsidy program, is a prominent exception. Recipients of the Research and Development Tax Credit are disclosed separately by the Department of Revenue, but with minimal additional information.

The Office of the Budget prepares the state’s Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR), which includes the cost of major tax abatement programs. The cost of the Research and Development Tax Credit is reported in the revenue department’s publications. Pennsylvania localities generally report tax abatements in accordance with GASB Statement No. 77. Notably, the Philadelphia City School District ranks the highest in the country in foregone revenue.

The Independent Fiscal Office was created in 2010 to undertake budgetary analyses and was charged in 2017 with evaluating Pennsylvania’s tax credit programs on a five-year rotating cycle. The Auditor General has also reviewed some of DCED’s grants and loan programs, but the Keystone Opportunity Zone program has not been evaluated since 2009.

Our database tracking corporate misconduct, Violation Tracker, scours 450 federal, state and local agencies in compiling resolved civil and criminal cases against companies. See the list of state agencies from which we collect information in Pennsylvania.

Last updated December 2023.

For more information, contact Anya Gizis at [email protected].