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The Great and Powerful (Tax Benefits of) OZ: Opportunity Zone Information Now Available in a Nationwide Website

When it comes to deferring capital gains and other valuable tax benefits, investors are finding there’s no place like home—provided home is near one of the 8,700 Opportunity Zones (OZs) certified by the Treasury nationwide. And investors benefiting from OZ tax incentives are not limited to real estate companies. Potential beneficiaries of these capital gains tax savings are banks, and energy companies, and hospitality services, oh my! (Just to name a few).

The federal OZ program was created under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage private investment in economically distressed areas across the nation. Investors in OZ projects can earn significant capital gains tax incentives, subject to certain investment terms that promote economic growth within these communities.

Initial investment in OZs was somewhat tepid, likely due in part to perceived ambiguity in the regulations. Since the initial launch, additional guidelines have been released to better define the program. And now, potential OZ investors have a new tool intended to further clarify the geographic areas and regulations associated with OZs: the www.OpportunityZones.gov website. Launched by the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, the OZ website provides a single, organized source of information related to OZs, including a map of OZs across the nation, tax forms, government contracting opportunities, and the text of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The website also provides links to state-level agencies working with the Opportunity Zone program.

Although created by federal legislation, the OZ program is, at its heart, a locally focused initiative in which local communities have a great deal of input on how their community needs should be addressed. For example, here in Houston, the Kinder Institute has created this excellent interactive story map with detailed information on local Opportunity Zones. Indeed, several states, including Alabama, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, and Ohio, have already upped the ante with additional legislation to further incentivize investment in their designated OZs.

Designated OZs are areas with relatively low per-capita income rates (relative to their state) or a poverty rate of at least 20 percent. But these areas are also, in many cases, closely located to thriving urban areas, making them attractive areas for investment.

To take advantage of OZ investment, investors reinvest their capital gains in Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOFs). The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designates QOFs as the means by which investors put money into Opportunity Zone projects. An investment of realized capital gains in a QOF can defer taxation of the invested gains and, potentially, reduce the tax of such investment by up to 15% if the investment is held long enough. Investors that hold their OZ investments for 10 years can expect to eliminate tax on any gains on their original investment in a QOF. While some of the tax benefits of the OZ program will be available to investors for years to come, investors must make their investments by December 31, 2019 in order to achieve maximum value.

Final regulations clarifying the OZ rules are expected at the end of 2019.

Copyright © 2019 Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP All Rights Reserved.

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About this Author

Kristin Lamb, Associate, Houston, WBD, IP Law, Patent Law
Associate

Large companies, startups, universities, and solo inventors look to Kristin Lamb to assist in establishing, defending, and monetizing valuable intellectual property. 

Kristin focuses on assisting clients in protecting their intellectual property rights in the areas of patents, trademarks, and copyrights, advising on strategies for pursuing protection, filing domestic and foreign applications, and prosecuting applications to allowance. In addition, Kristin guides clients in intellectual property litigation, as well as IP licensing. 

Kristin is well-versed in a variety of...

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Michael Cashin, Womble Dickinson Law Firm, Winston Salem, Tax Law Attorney
Partner

Clients call on Mike for his depth of experience in complex tax matters. For more than a decade, he has focused on tax planning and structuring for both publicly and privately held entities. He has advised clients with respect to cross-border tax issues, structuring of mergers, acquisitions and dispositions, securities disclosures, corporate and partnership formation and restructuring, bankruptcy and insolvency, private equity and venture capital transactions, and tax exempt organization formation and compliance.

As a part of his transactional practice, Mike often advises clients with respect to issues involving executive compensation planning, including non-qualified deferred compensation arrangements, severance plans, split-dollar life insurance arrangements and Internal Revenue Code Section 409A compliance.

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