Introduction to Opportunity Zones
Originally conceptualized by the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) in 2015 and established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the opportunity zone program was created to stimulate economic growth in designated low-income communities in return for capital gains tax breaks. Opportunity zones are designated low-income census tracts with a poverty rate of 20% or a median family income of up to 80% of the area median. There are 8,762 opportunity zones spanning all fifty states and five U.S. territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands).
The goal of the program is to improve the economic conditions of low-income communities by incentivizing long-term private capital investment. There is $6.1 trillion of individual ($3.8 trillion) and corporate ($2.3 trillion) unrealized capital gains that can be deployed into opportunity funds. Spreading wealth to grow these local economies will surely have a positive impact on many of the 35 million people who call these communities home.
How to invest in Opportunity Zones
By deploying capital gains earned from the sale/exchange of any asset (real estate, art, bitcoin, etc.) into a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF), investors are able to defer, and potentially reduce, capital gains taxes. An additional tax benefit to be aware of is the ability to exclude all taxes on capital gains earned on interest in the opportunity fund if held for 10 years. Investments in Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZ) are done so through a QOF, which must invest at least 90% of assets into QOZ. Any eligible taxpayers such as individuals, C corps (RICs & REITs), S corps, partnerships, trusts, and estates are able to create or invest in qualified opportunity funds. Below is a visual to help further understand.
ALSO READ: Where should you be putting your cryptocurrency gains? Opportunity Zones.
The opportunity zone program was designed with three favorable tax incentives for investors to encourage participation. The tax incentives offered by the Opportunity Zone Program include:
- Immediate deferral
- Taxes on initial capital gains of appreciated assets can be deferred if invested into a QOF within 180 days.
- Future reduction
- 10% reduction of the deferred gain if the investments are held in a QOF for longer than 5 years
- 15% reduction of the deferred gain if the investments in a QOF are held longer than 7 years
- Future exclusion
- No taxes on new capital gained if the investment is held in the QOF for 10 years or more.
- Year 1, 2019: Capital gain deferred into opp fund: $100
- Year 5, 2024: Tax liability on $100 capital gain is decreased by 10% to $90
- Year 7, 2026: Tax liability on $100 capital gain is decreased an additional 5% to $85
- Pay capital gains tax of x% on $85 vs $100
- Continue holding $100 interest in opp fund
- Year 10, 2029: Original investment of $100 has appreciated to $150. By holding interest for 10 years, you earn the right to pay no capital gains tax on $50 earned.
What is a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF)?
A QOF is an investment vehicle (corporate or partnership entity) established for the purpose of investing in Qualified Opportunity Zone Property (QOZP). QOZP consists of stock, partnership interests, and business property and excludes sin businesses (liquor stores, strip clubs, casinos, massage parlors, racetracks, golf courses, etc). If you were seeking to create your own qualified opportunity fund, you would fill out Form 8996 and self-certify. A QOF must invest at least 90% of its assets in QOZP. For each month it fails to meet the 90% requirement, the fund must pay a penalty.
The Opportunity Zone Program is designed to stimulate economic development and employment creation in low-income communities by incentivizing long-term private capital investment. With an estimated $6 trillion in unrealized capital gains, there is astounding potential for distressed communities across the country to benefit. This program will enable investors to put their capital to work and accelerate economic growth in distressed communities across the country, while also taking advantage of tax incentives.
- Opportunity Zones Program - The program incentivizes investors to unlock private capital and facilitate economic growth in distressed areas. Received bipartisan support and established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
- Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ) - economically distressed community designated by the state, certified by Secretary of US Treasury and IRS.
- Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) - an investment vehicle (corporate or partnership entity) established for the purpose of investing in Qualified Opportunity Zone Property (QOZP).
- Qualified Opportunity Zone Property (QOZP) - stock, partnership interests, and business property. Excludes sin businesses such as liquor stores, strip clubs, casinos, massage parlors, racetracks, golf courses.
- Tax incentives - established in Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017
- Immediate deferral of capital gains until 12/31/26
- Future reduction in gains if the investment is held for 5 years (10%) and 7 years (15%)
- Future exclusion of gains earned on interest in opportunity fund if held for 10 years.