There's one other wild card here, which is that the New York City Independent Budget Office has projected that even under the expiring IRS rules, the arena project wouldn't generate enough property tax value to justify $700 million in tax-free bonds. (If you really want to know what property tax valuations have to do with tax-free bonds, start here.) It'll be interesting to see if Ratner has to take out bond insurance for the possibility of the IRS rejecting some of his tax-exempt bonds as well — and if at some point he needs to find another Russian billionaire to pay for it.
Build America Bonds aren't tax-exempt--but they are subsidized. So they can achieve the same goal for the developer: a lower interest rate than the taxable market. And, if the foregone taxes on the arena block could only support PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) for, say, $500 million in tax-exempt bonds, perhaps Build America Bonds could take up the slack.
BUILD AMERICA BONDS
First, Treasury announces the implementation of the Build America Bond program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to provide much-needed funding for state and local governments at lower borrowing costs. This will enable them to pursue necessary capital projects, such as work on public buildings, courthouses, schools, roads, transportation infrastructure, government hospitals, public safety facilities and equipment, water and sewer
projects, environmental projects, energy projects, governmental housing projects and public utilities.
Traditionally, tax-exempt bonds provide a critical source of capital for state and local governments, but the recession has sharply reduced their ability to finance new projects. Supplementing this existing market, the Build America Bond program is designed to provide a federal subsidy for a larger portion of the borrowing costs of state and local governments than traditional tax-exempt bonds in order to stimulate the economy and encourage investments in capital projects in 2009 and 2010.
HOW BUILD AMERICA BONDS WORK
Build America Bonds are a new financing tool for state and local governments. The bonds, which allow a new direct federal payment subsidy, are taxable bonds issued by state and local governments that will give them access to the conventional corporate debt markets. At the election of the state and local governments, the Treasury Department will make a direct payment to the state or local governmental issuer in an amount equal to 35 percent of the interest payment on the Build America Bonds. As a result of this federal subsidy payment, state and local governments will have lower net borrowing costs and be able to reach more sources of borrowing than with more traditional tax-exempt or tax credit bonds. For example, if a state or local government were to issue Build America Bonds at a 10 percent taxable interest rate, the Treasury Department would make a payment directly to the government of 3.5 percent of that interest, and the government’s net borrowing cost would thus be only 6.5 percent on a bond that actually pays 10 percent interest.
This feature will make Build America Bonds attractive to a broader group of investors, and therefore create a larger market than typically invest in more traditional state and local tax- exempt bonds, where interest rates, due to the federal tax exemption, have historically been about 20 percent lower than taxable interest rates. They should be attractive to investors without regard to their tax status or income tax bracket (e.g., pension funds and other tax-exempt investors, investors in low tax brackets, and foreign investors).
According to the IRS:
In general, Build America Bonds (Tax Credit) may be issued to finance any governmental purpose for which tax-exempt governmental bonds (excluding private activity bonds under § 141) could be issued under § 103 (“tax-exempt governmental bonds”) and must comply with all requirements applicable to the issuance of tax-exempt governmental bonds. Accordingly, Build America Bonds (Tax Credit) may be issued to finance the same kinds of expenditures (e.g., capital expenditures and working capital expenditures) and may involve the same kinds of financings (e.g., original new money financings, current refundings, and one advance refunding) as tax-exempt governmental bonds. Similarly, Build America Bonds (Tax Credit) may not be issued for any purposes for which tax-exempt governmental bonds could not be issued under § 103 (e.g., prohibited second advance refunding issues or pension annuity issues).