The window to take advantage of one of three main tax incentives nestled within a unique investment strategy is coming to a close this month amid a flurry of last-minute activity. Investors have until year’s end for a full 10% reduction in the federal taxable portion of deferred capital gains found in Qualified Opportunity Zones.
Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs), a bipartisan initiative designed to bolster distressed communities while offering tax incentives, was originally mapped out in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of December 2017.
Through vehicles called Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOFs), the program allows investors to reduce their capital gains by 10% if invested in a Qualified Opportunity Zone before December 31, 2021.
Many QOZs are located in rural and agricultural areas. One of these, in California’s Salinas Valley, is seeing robust investment and redevelopment.
Salinas is known as the “Salad Bowl of the World” for its production of vegetables and fruits. It exports over 400 million pounds each year to Canada, Taiwan, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, and many other countries, and supplies the U.S. with most of its lettuce and celery, along with broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, strawberries, and wine grapes. The region generates an annual $4.26 billion.
Last week’s Organic Grower Summit, an enormous forum for organic produce growers that featured over 100 supply chain and service providers, highlighted the growth potential and economic opportunities that exist in the region’s Qualified Opportunity Zones.
Foot traffic at the Monterey-based summit, which also featured books on investing in QOZs, were testament to how eager the region is for QOZ investment.
One fund is channeling millions of investment dollars in a project to build a high-tech, fresh produce pre-cooling and cold storage facility. Once it becomes operational in 2026, the state-of-the-art facility will dramatically transform the entire face of the agricultural industry. And it is located in an opportunity zone.
Of course, there are many examples of what QOFs can invest in: apartment complexes; condo/town home complexes; schools and libraries; restaurants; food processing facilities; hospitals and clinics; hotels and motels; manufacturing; performing arts centers and concert halls; strip malls, and more.
Since the QOZ program was unveiled in 2017, some 8,800 opportunity zones have been federally certified, in both urban and rural census tracts across the country. That is 8,800 distressed communities sorely in need of an injection of capital – those grappling with poverty, shuttered businesses, population decline, lack of resources such as healthcare and education, failing infrastructure, and social ills like drugs and crime.
Under the current law, investors have until December 31, 2021 to realize the 10% step-up in basis when investing in a QOF and holding it for five years before the deferral period end date of December 31, 2026.
If investing in a QOF after 12/31/21, investors can still take advantage of the program’s incentives but won’t be maximizing all the tax benefits by getting the full reduction.
Investors have until April 15, 2027 to pay any capital gains owed – essentially they enjoy a tax-free loan. Moreover, they can receive annual dividends, and most importantly any appreciation on the investment after ten years is completely tax free.
According to the Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan public policy organization that brings together entrepreneurs, investors, economists and policymakers to address America’s economic challenges, US investors have over seven trillion dollars of capital gains. Yes, seven trillion! These capital gains are created from sales of stock, real estate sales, business sales, and many other such sales.
Directing these capital gains to the 8,800 opportunity zones nationwide can positively impact over 35 million struggling Americans of every race, creed, color, gender, and age group.
Investors benefit from the initiative’s capital gains tax breaks; they make money, possibly even an outsized ROI; they have a means of diversifying their portfolios away from equities; and they can use the strategy for multigenerational long term financial planning.
QOZs offer a win-win, win-win. With less than one month before the year-end deadline, the time to act is now.