Will Opportunity Zones Encourage Investment and Economic Growth?

April 05, 2019 | Megan Klassa, Research Associate

Will Opportunity Zones Encourage Investment and Economic Growth chart

In an effort to attract capital and encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities, Congress reformed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to establish Opportunity Zones nationwide, which could offer a tax break for investors. The chart above shows the number of Opportunity Zones in each state. Congress had tried similar approaches in the past with Empowerment Zones and Renewal Communities, but this most recent effort is receiving unparalleled levels of attention for its generosity to investors and lack of governmental supervision.

Under this program, investors can re-invest their unrealized capital gains into a Qualified Opportunity Fund within 180 days of realization to receive numerous tax benefits. These benefits include potentially excluding up to 15% of invested gains from taxation (10% if held for 5 years, 15% if held for 7+ years). An investment held for longer (at least 10 years) is permanently excluded from taxation. In addition, capital gain taxes can potentially be deferred until 2026.

Given the infancy of the program, many have pointed out flaws within the initiative, stating there is a disconnect between the social benefits from the investments — which will be difficult to measure — and the size of the potential tax costs, which are uncapped. However, it will be for some time until it can be determined whether the program is effective and advantageous for investors, given Congress has asked the IRS to begin reporting on the program’s operations in 2022. Ultimately, this program bears watching as it could be an attractive opportunity for investors and asset managers while also encouraging growth in depressed areas of the country.

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The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

Megan Klassa
Research Associate

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