Since the Opportunity Zones program was announcing in 2017, the buzz around investing in Opportunity Zones has grown significantly. However, many of the rules of the program have not been particularly clear, leaving many investors confused. In an attempt to clarify things, the IRS released a new set of Opportunity Zone regulations on April 17, 2019, which, ideally, will increase investor confidence in the program, making it much easier for business owners, investors and Opportunity Fund managers to know what types of investments do and do not qualify.
Ohio, as the seventh largest state in the U.S., contains many extremely promising areas for Opportunity Zones investing, and, as there are a substantial 320 Opportunity Zones distributed througout the state, investors have quite a few areas to chose from. Today, Ohio is known for industries including fuel cell and solar energy development, medical research, aerospace and defense, rubber and industrial products, and tech research and development, which are all contributing to the state’s healthy rate of economic development.
In 2018, Governor Rick Scott announced the designation of 427 Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs) througout the state of Florida. These O-Zones are spread througout the state, however, they are concentrated in some of the state’s most populous areas; 68 Opportunity Zones are in the state’s most heavily populated county, Miami-Dade, while 34 Opportunity Zones are located in Duval County, home of Jacksonville, Florida’s most populous city. There are approximately 350,000 commercial properties located inside the state’s O-Zones, about 12% of all commercial properties in the state.
Investing in an Opportunity Zone can significantly reduce an investor’s capital gains tax liability, which is important if the investor owns one or more assets that they plan to sell in the near future. Capital gains tax is the tax charged on profits that are made when an investor sells an asset, such as a piece of real estate, stock in company, or an expensive collectable.
The New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) encourages investment and development in low income communities by offering tax credits to investors who make equity investments in specialized investment vehicles referred to as Community Development Entities (CDEs). Investors can claim a 39% credit (of equity invested) over a 7-year period. The NMTC program has helped create 178 million sq. ft. of commercial space and has financed more than 5,000 businesses. In comparison, the Opportunity Zones program allows investors to defer or reduce their capital gains taxes by investing in an Opportunity Fund, a specialized investment vehicle that has invested 90% of its assets into a Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ), one of 8,700 low-income census tracts througout the U.S.
Texas, the second largest state in the U.S., has 628 designated Opportunity Zones, making it one of the most promising areas for Opportunity Fund investing in the entire country. Texas has O-Zones located in or near all of its major urban areas, including Austin, Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. The median household income of Texas’s Opportunity Zones is $36,268, compared to the median income of $57,547 for all census tracts in the state. In addition, 70.22% of Texas’s Opportunity Zones are located in a metro area, compared to 85.58% of all census tracts statewide.
As the most populous state in the Union, California is ripe with Opportunity Zones— and opportunities to invest in them. While the largest Opportunity Zones in the state are located far inland, there are still Opportunity Zones in some of the state’s most densely populated areas, such as Los Angeles and San Diego Counties. For those who are unfamiliar, the Opportunity Zones Program is a federal tax incentive program created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017
Since Opportunity Zones offer an incredible opportunity for eligible investors to defer their capital gains until 2027, as well as to avoid any capital gains on any appreciation in their Opportunity Fund investment (given that it’s held at least 10 years), it’s often compared to another capital gains tax deferral mechanism, the 1031 exchange. While 1031 exchanges have many similarities to Opportunity Fund investments, they also have quite a few major differences.
The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program is the federal government’s primary incentive program to encourage investors and developers to create more affordable housing around the U.S. To do so, the program offers investors in affordable housing a dollar-for-dollar reduction on their federal income taxes. In contrast, Opportunity Zones program allows investors who put sell their investments and re-invest their money into qualified Opportunity Funds to defer their capital gains taxes until 2026, and, if they keep their money in the fund for at last 10 years, they pay no capital gains taxes on any new gains that their investment makes.
An Opportunity Fund is an investment vehicle specifically designed to facilitate into investment into designed low-income areas called Opportunity Zones. These funds allow investors to take advantage of a variety of tax incentives, including permitting them to defer their capital gains taxes until 2027. Opportunity Funds can be created by individual investors, who can place their own funds inside an Opportunity Fund, or by larger organizations, which can advertise these funds to private investors or to the general public.