While corporate and individual tax relief took center stage in the debate over the passage of the new federal tax reform legislation, a less-discussed section of the new law may have a significant impact in driving investment into distressed areas throughout the country.
The new law establishes the Opportunity Zone Program, which creates preferential tax treatment for unrealized capital gains that are reinvested in to-be-determine qualified opportunity zones. The new law instructs governors in each state (and the Mayor of Washington, D.C.) to identify eligible census tracts from a pool of low-income, high-poverty census tracts (each state is limited to selecting up to 25% of the state’s census tracts that meet the eligibility requirements).
Importantly, the new law will allow corporations and partnerships to establish Opportunity Funds, created for the purpose of investing in qualified opportunity zone property (which includes any opportunity zone business stock, any opportunity zone partnership interest, and any opportunity zone business property).
As recently outlined by the Economic Innovation Group (www.eig.org), investments made in a qualified Opportunity Fund will receive preferential tax treatment, including:
A temporary deferral of inclusion in taxable income for capital gains reinvested in an Opportunity Fund. The deferred gain must be recognized on the earlier of the date on which the opportunity zone investment is disposed of or December 31, 2026.
A step-up in basis for capital gains reinvested in an Opportunity Fund. The basis is increased by 10% if the investment in the Opportunity Fund is held by the taxpayer for at least 5 years and by an additional 5% if held for at least 7 years, thereby excluding up to 15% of the original gain from taxation.
A permanent exclusion from taxable income of capital gains from the sale or exchange of an investment in an Opportunity Fund if the investment is held for at least 10 years. This exclusion only applies to gains accrued after an investment in an Opportunity Fund.