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The state of Texas is getting out in front of a new federal policy on Opportunity Zones, a program enacted by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to provide economic development funding for distressed urban and rural areas.
According to an article by Luis Guajardo and Alexandra Miller, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the designation of 628 Opportunity Zones, including 150 in the Houston metropolitan area. Designating Opportunity Zones is a necessary step on the way to implementing this new financing program:
Governors were given 90 days since the new tax code was signed into law to designate up to 25 percent of eligible census tracts as Opportunity Zones for a 10 year period. To be eligible, a census tract must have a poverty rate of at least 20 percent and a median family income less than 80 percent of the area’s median income or be contiguous to low-income tracts with a median family income that does not surpass 125 percent of the low-income tracts’ median family income.
As explained in the article, as well as an earlier post on Planetizen, the Opportunity Zones will be funded by an investment vehicle known as Qualified Investment Funds. "Opportunity Funds provide investors a 10 percent step-up in basis available after a five-year investment, with an additional 5 percent allotted after seven years and permanent exemption of capital gains from taxable income after 10 years -- including for the sale of property," explain Guajardo and Miller.
According to Miller there's plenty of reason for Texas and any other state to be excited by the prospect of this new federal program. "Policy experts tracking the initiative claim trillions of dollars in private capital are sitting on the sideline [pdf] and investors are keen to benefit from the proposed tax deferrals -- making this one of the most significant place-based incentive tools available to date."