West Virginia

West Virginia is a small rural state with hilly landmasses that are hard to develop. This means there are fewer opportunities for companies to pursue the type of large giveaways they seek in neighboring states. A notable exception came in 2022, when state legislators passed a fast-tracked $1 billion deal for an unnamed company, later revealed to be Nucor, a major steel producer. 

In recent years, West Virginia eliminated some of its tax-based subsidies and instead lowered corporate tax rates. But the state still offers corporate income tax credits for manufacturers, headquarters and fractioning plants, and sales tax exemptions for warehouses and e-commerce companies. On the local level, companies benefit from bond-lease agreements and Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) that lower their property taxes. Those deals have subsidized power plants such Longview Power, a coal-burning plant in Monongalia County.  

The West Virginia Development Office and the West Virginia Tax Office jointly manage the majority of development programs. Local economic authorities issue bonds that pay for company site development and enter into PILOT agreements.  

Very limited subsidy recipient data is available online on the Governor’s Guaranteed Workforce Training Fund; limited data on tax break recipients is available in an aggregate form through freedom of information request (we have the data in Subsidy Tracker). But subsidy disclosure might improve soon. In 2021, West Virginia legislature passed a law that requires the State Auditor’s Office to post online economic development grant recipients by January 1, 2022. Locally, PILOT agreements have almost no transparency. 

The state does not include any programs under the GASB 77 rule and only a handful of cities and school districts report revenue lost to PILOTs. The West Virginia Tax Department publishes Tax Expenditure Studies with the total cost of subsidy programs.  

The Tax Department also evaluates selective subsidy programs every three years: the Economic Opportunity Tax Credit, the Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit, and the now-expired Strategic Research and Development Tax Credit. Other programs, especially newer ones, are excluded from the evaluation. A recent audit found that the “impact of the credit programs on economic growth is modest at best.” 

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 West Virginia.

Last Updated November 2023.

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