4 min read

New Opportunity Zone Legislation Could Reshape Rural Opportunity Zones

New Opportunity Zone Legislation Could Reshape Rural Opportunity Zones

A few days ago, both the House Ways and Means Committee passed its first piece of tax legislation in the 118th Congress. It included two provisions to the Opportunity Zones (OZ) tax incentive, which was originally enacted as part of the 2017 tax reform effort. If approved, the legislation would result in a momentous expansion of the OZ map, along with a giant leap in public transparency related to OZ investments and their impact on designated communities. In this article, we will examine the key points that investors and policy makers should take note of regarding the changing legislation.

Expansion of Opportunity Zones

The legislation passed by the House Ways and Means Committee promises to bring significant expansions to the Opportunity Zones (OZ) tax incentive. This initiative initially came into existence as part of the 2017 tax reform, focusing on low-income and high poverty communities. 

The expansion will broaden the OZ map, and enhance public transparency related to OZ investments and their impacts on communities. If approved, these changes could significantly reshape investment strategies and drive transformative community development. Thus, it's a substantial shift for the landscape of investment in struggling areas, and can open more opportunities for investors.

New map of persistent poverty OZs

The legislation extends OZ designation to any rural persistent poverty census tract nationwide, thus broadening the areas where investors can potentially invest. This inclusion could enhance rural community development through incentivizing investment in these often overlooked areas. A qualifying census tract must be in a county where at least 50 percent of census blocks are rural, and where poverty rates have exceeded 20 percent for the past 30 years.

Further, an estimated 1,926 rural census tracts meet this criteria, creating an expanded pool of investment opportunities. The addition of these new areas on the OZ map will provide more choice for investors and facilitate economic development in distressed rural communities.

The structure of the incentive

The legislation sets a different timeline for tax benefits related to qualified investments in the new map of rural OZ communities. This altered timeline is key to understanding when and how potential tax incentives can be realized from investments. 

While the structure of the incentive remains unchanged from the original 2017 enactment, this shift is worth noting for anyone considering an OZ investment. To that end, an understanding of this timeline is integral to strategizing investments, managing risks, and optimizing potential returns.

Significant Changes to the OZ landscape 

The proposed tax legislation targets persistent poverty communities, requiring a higher threshold of economic need than the original OZ community criteria. What’s great about this, is that this shift of focus aligns more closely with the objective of the OZ incentive to aid the most disadvantaged areas. 

By emphasizing chronic poverty rates over time, the policy aims to channel investments into areas with the greatest need. This strategy could potentially yield substantial societal benefits, by catalyzing growth and revitalization in communities that currently entrenched in poverty.

Reporting Requirements

The proposal also removes the median income of a tract from consideration, and instead focuses on long-term, high poverty rates. This change could allow for a more accurate targeting of persistent poverty, as it is not skewed by higher income outliers within a census tract. 

It can also help investors access more detailed and transparent data about investment activity and socioeconomic indicators in opportunity zones.

This helps to ensure that the tax incentives are allocated to regions most in need of investment and economic development. It is a measure that, while nuanced, could lead to more effective resource allocation and ultimately more impactful results.

Considerations for Congress

Persistent rural poverty is primarily concentrated in Appalachia and the South, affecting both investment strategies and potential returns. These regions hold the majority of qualifying census tracts under the new criteria. 

States like Kentucky and Mississippi present numerous opportunities, each having more than 160 persistently poor rural census tracts. This concentration, while potentially limiting in scope, provides a targeted investment landscape that could foster deep and transformative economic impact.

Recommendations for improvements 

The original OZ designation formula ensured broad geographic representation, balancing this with the core purpose of targeting high-need communities. The new legislation, with its focus on rural persistent poverty, would significantly change the OZ landscape. 

This could result in a steep rise in OZs for some states and few to none for others. Therefore, understanding this shift and its implications is key for investors wanting to navigate the changing landscape of OZs successfully.

Success of the OZ incentive

The House proposal moves away from having governors play a leading role in OZ designation. This departure could affect the local insights that previously shaped the OZ map. 

While it may streamline the designation process, this change could also result in a less nuanced understanding of the areas in need. Regardless, understanding the implications of this shift is important for anyone wishing to navigate the new landscape effectively.

Need for further strengthening of the policy 

The legislation incorporates robust transparency and reporting requirements related to the OZ incentive. These new rules will require the Treasury Department to produce detailed reports on investment activity and performance indicators in OZ communities. 

For investors, this could result in a wealth of data to guide decision-making and strategy development. Thus, the added transparency is a significant benefit to anyone considering investment in OZs, and can be extremely helpful for due diligence.

In conclusion, the recent legislation passed by the House Ways and Means Committee presents a major step forward for Opportunity Zones (OZ), extending benefits to persistent poverty rural areas and enhancing public transparency. 

With the new provisions, OZs will cover a wider geographic area, mainly concentrated in the South and Appalachia, significantly altering the national OZ landscape. However, the effects of these changes will be complex and multifaceted, requiring careful consideration by policymakers. 

It is critical to integrate lessons learned from the original OZ designation process, applying targeted filtering criteria to ensure alignment with the intent of the policy. 

As investors like to consider their options, a nuanced understanding of the changing OZ landscape is essential. The future of OZs holds significant potential for promoting investment in underserved communities, driving economic growth, and improving local outcomes.

Staying on top of the latest news, as well as understanding the implications, is what will allow you to navigate the Opportunity Zone landscape with ease. 

Stay tuned for our next article for more insights like this! 

Investing in the Industrial Sector: A Smart Move for Opportunity Zone Investors

Investing in the Industrial Sector: A Smart Move for Opportunity Zone Investors

Industrial Sector is a New and Booming Opportunity Zone Investment In the last year or two, opportunity zone investments and qualified opportunity...

Read More
The Untapped Potential of QOFs in the Energy Sector

The Untapped Potential of QOFs in the Energy Sector

As we near the September 11 Deadline, several investors are seeking out Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs) to defer their capital gain taxes. Plus,...

Read More
Experts: Optimistic For Potential Opportunity Zone Extension

Experts: Optimistic For Potential Opportunity Zone Extension

Investors seeking innovative and socially responsible investment avenues are increasingly turning their attention to Opportunity Zones (OZs). As a...

Read More