What Are Opportunity Zones?Opportunity Zones are a new tool for community development. The program was created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to revitalize economically distressed communities using private investments rather than taxpayer dollars. To stimulate private participation in the Opportunity Zone program, taxpayers who invest in Qualified Opportunity Zones are eligible to benefit from capital gains tax incentives available exclusively through the program.
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California Opportunity Zones Overview Presentation
How Investing in Opportunity Zones Works
The designation of Opportunity Zones is designed to help spur development of identified communities. In exchange for investing in Opportunity Zones, investors can access capital gains tax incentives available exclusively through the Opportunity Zone program. To access these tax benefits, investors must invest in Opportunity Zones specifically through Opportunity Funds. A qualified Opportunity Fund is a US partnership or corporation that intends to invest at least 90% of its holdings in one or more qualified Opportunity Zones. As previously mentioned, Opportunity Funds are governed by IRC section 1400Z-2 and Opportunity Funds can self-certify to the IRS. But each Opportunity Fund is responsible for ensuring that they abide by the guidelines of the Opportunity Program in order to be able to offer tax incentives.
Because the Opportunity Zone program is intended to stimulate positive growth within designated communities, there are restrictions on the types of investments in which an Opportunity Fund can invest. These investments are called “Qualified Opportunity Zone property,” which is defined as any one of the following:
- Partnership interests in businesses that operate in a qualified Opportunity Zone.
- Stock ownership in businesses that conduct most or all of their operations within a qualified Opportunity Zone.
- Property such as real estate located within a qualified Opportunity Zone.
There are rules that govern each of these three investment options, but the rules for businesses are similar to those of the Enterprise Zone Business requirements. For property such as real estate, the rules are somewhat different. The types of real estate investments allowed by the program are limited to ensure that the communities are improved with each investment.
Essentially, Opportunity Funds can only invest in the construction of new buildings and the substantial improvement of existing unused buildings. If an Opportunity Fund invests in the improvement of an existing building, it must invest more in the improvement of the building than it paid to buy the building. Whether the building is constructed from the ground up or improved, the development of the building must be completed within 30 months of purchase.
Tax Advantages of Investing in Opportunity Zones
In exchange for following the rules of the Opportunity Zone program and investing in Qualified Opportunity Zones through Qualified Opportunity Funds, investors can receive substantial capital gain tax incentives immediately and over the long term.
When an investor divests an appreciated asset, such as stocks or real estate, they realize a capital gain, which is a taxable event. Under the Opportunity Zone Program, if an investor reinvests a capital gain into an Opportunity Fund, they can defer and reduce their tax liability on that gain. Beyond that, they can also potentially receive tax-free treatment for all future appreciation earned through the fund. Together, these tax incentives can boost after-tax returns for Opportunity Fund investors:
- Those who invest realized capital gains into a Qualified Opportunity Fund can defer paying capital gains tax for those earnings until April 2027 for investments held through December 31, 2026. Gains must be invested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund within 180 days in order to qualify for any tax treatment available under the Opportunity Fund program.
- Those who hold their Opportunity Fund investments for at least five years prior to December 31, 2026 can reduced their liability on the deferred capital gain principal invested in the Opportunity Fund by 10%. If the investment is held for a minimum of seven years prior to December 31, 2026, the tax liability can be reduced by 15% total.
- Those who hold their Opportunity Fund investment for at least 10 years can expect to pay no capital gains taxes on any appreciation in their Opportunity Fund investment. That’s because Opportunity Fund gains earned from Opportunity Zone investments can qualify for permanent exclusion from the capital gains tax if the investment if held for at least 10 years.