Opportunity Zones Resource Center
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Our Most Frequently Asked Questions about Opportunity Zones
Laws, Regulations and Federal Webpages
General Resource Pages on OZ
Research, Blogs and Writings
FAQ: Opportunity Zones (NEW!!!)
See the full FAQ (including in PDF format) here.
What are Opportunity Zones (OZs)?
Small geographic areas where individuals and corporations can get large capital-gains tax breaks for investing.
Today, there are 8,762 OZs located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. Nearly all of Puerto Rico is an Opportunity Zone.
- Find out: Where OZs are located where you live.
What is the purpose of OZs?
The goal behind OZs is to stimulate reinvestment in economically depressed areas, and thus, by implication, to help improve the lives of low-income residents in these historically excluded communities. However, on this implied goal of assisting incumbent residents, OZs have no community benefits mechanisms to ensure anything good happens to OZ residents.
- Learn more about Community Benefits Agreements here.
How did the program start?
Their arrival was enabled by a provision of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (sometimes referred to as the “Trump Tax Cuts”). But for years before that, a group of tech investors (including Napster’s Sean Parker) had been lobbying for a similar program as a way to avoid or reduce capital gains taxes on their soaring stock portfolios.
How were Opportunity Zones chosen?
Based on 2010 census data, a total of 42,176 census tracts were poor enough to qualify as OZs. The Tax Cuts Act then required each state’s governor to select about one-fourth of the eligible tracts as OZs. The Act also allowed governors to designate better-off census tracts that border OZ-eligible tracts as OZs (for up to 5% of a state’s OZs).
Of the final 8,762 selected, 8,532 were low-income communities and 230 were so-called “contiguous communities (2.6%).
- Story idea: How were tracts chosen in your state? Are there property owners, developers, mayors, county executives or others who may have influenced the governor’s picks?
Laws, Regulations and Federal Webpages
Text of Opportunity Zone Law
Legislative History: (including names of 81 co-sponsors)
US Treasury: Resources Page (includes list and maps of Opportunity Zones by state)
IRS draft tax Form 8996 for Opportunity Zone investors, released October 31, 2019. For a good overview of the draft form, see: Lydia O’Neal, “IRS Opportunity Zone Form Doesn’t Quell Transparency Concerns,” Bloomberg Tax, October 31, 2019.
The Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access hold a hearing on October 17, 2019 titled “Can Opportunity Zones Address Concerns in the Small Business Economy?” Click here to watch.
Internal Revenue Services’ webpage on OZ.
A general resource and promotional webpage launched by the White House. In August 2020, the White House released a report on OZs. The report’s estimates of investment raised though OZs have been widely questioned.
In a bipartisan effort, Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Mike Kelly (R-PA) introduced a bill (May 8, 2019) to improve transparency of Opportunity Zones. If enacted, the Department of the Treasury would collect data and report to Congress on investments held by qualified opportunity funds; some of the data would be made public.
On November 4, 2019 four Senate Finance Committee members asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the program “to review its effectiveness in spurring investment in low-income areas compared to other federal incentives, zone designations and program compliance.”
A bill (text, summary) introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) on November 6, 2019 would prohibit investment in stadiums, luxury condominiums, projects that were already in the worker when OZs were created, among others; the bill would also terminate zones that are not truly low-income.
On November 7, 2019 Representative Jim Clyburn (D-SC) introduced a House counterpart bill to the Wyden’s bill introduced in Senate the day before.
On November 22, 2019 Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) introduced a bill that would repeal Opportunity Zones.
General Resource Pages on OZ
Council of Development Finance Agencies, a trade association of public and private community finance organizations, has a resource page with a mapping tool, rules and regulation, newsletter, fee-based training courses, etc.
Economic Innovation Group (EIG) is the Sean Parker-funded think tank which promotes OZs, having won the inclusion of OZs in the Trump tax bill. The group hosts interactive maps showing investments, funds and initiatives in the Zones (it seems, however, that the maps are not comprehensive).
Enterprise Community Partners, an affordable housing organization, has a program page with mapping tools, webinars, community impact tools, and anti-displacement policy proposals.
Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a national community development organization with local offices across the country, offers a page with Opportunity Zone FAQs, resource pages for community partners, investors and affordable housing developers:
Novogradac is a for-profit consulting company working with OZ investors. Its Opportunity Zone page includes registered OZ Funds, news, blog posts, mapping tools, information on state rules associated with federal OZs including state corporate and personal income tax conformity with the federal rules; and which states have created additional state OZ subsidies.
Urban Institute Resource Page, among reports and blog posts, includes downloadable OZ tract-level data and state-by-state analyses of the data. A June 2020 report provides an early assessment of OZs and offers ideas for the program reform.
Research, Blogs and Writings
A Berkeley study from April 2021 shows that only 16 percent of OZ tracks received investments. Those OZ tracks are within urban cores and have been doing well or have been experiencing gentrification. The average household income of OZ investor is over $1 million.
Smart Growth America and The Democracy at Work Institute argue in a October 2020 study that OZs are not working well for minority-owned small businesses and legacy businesses. The study offers case studies from Miami, Atlanta, Louisville and Washington, DC and recommendations on how to improve the program.
In this academic paper from August 2020 researchers from NYU Stern School of Business show that “OZs have had a very limited effect on employment outcomes.”
Good Jobs First did a blog (December 2019) about states losing revenue passively to OZs. The blog includes known estimates from four states.
In its report (also includes a link to a webinar) “Displacement Zones: How Opportunity Zones Turn Communities into Tax Shelters for the Rich” from November 2019 Saje, a non-profit organization in South Los Angeles, shows how OZs “allow wealthy investors to benefit from huge tax breaks while they speculate at the expense of the most vulnerable communities.”
Author Pat Garafalo found that 52 pro sports stadiums are within and thus can benefit from Opportunity Zone tax breaks. The blog (October 2019) includes the list of stadiums.
Citizens Budget Commission, “Opportunity Zones In New York State and City,” August 2019. In-depth assessment of Opportunity Zones in New York state and NYC.
In his blog (April 2019), Michael Mazerov at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argues that “states should decouple their income taxes from federal Opportunity Zone tax breaks asap.”
Gentrification is also a subject of RCLCO’s analysis of OZ tracks “Building Opportunity: Mapping Gentrification and Investment Across Opportunity Zones” (January 29, 2019) and a topic of a blog “Opportunity Zones: Gentrification on Steroids?” by William Fulton at Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University (February 20, 2019).
In its blog “These 18 NFL stadium neighborhoods are eligible for the Opportunity Zones tax break,” (February 2019) OpportunityDb, a consulting investment firm, puts together a list of NFL stadiums that are within Opportunity Zones.
In January 2019, Samantha Jacoby of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published an excellent overview and in-depth explanation of many issues the program faces, including risks of tax avoidance.
A blog by Stan Veuger, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, critiques OZs from a free market perspective: “4 reasons to be skeptical of tax incentives for ‘Opportunity Zones’” (December 2018).
A closer look at and evaluation of Opportunity Zones in North Carolina. North Carolina Justice Center, “Harnessing the Capital From Opportunity Zones Toward Equitable Development Goals,” November 2018.
Brookings Institution, “Learning from Opportunity Zones: How to improve place-based policies” (October 2018) includes a list of college towns with Opportunity Zones. This is a recurring issue because college towns look artificially “poor” because most of their residents are jobless students.
Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy takes a close look at the program in its “How Opportunity Zones Benefit Investors and Promote Displacement” blog from August 2018.
The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, “Opportunity Zones May Create More Opportunities for Investors and Syndicators Than Distressed Communities” (August 2018).
The National Community Reinvestment Coalition finds that “69% of neighborhoods that gentrified between 2000 and 2017 are either an Opportunity Zone or they are adjacent to one.” A mapping tool allows the viewer to easily see the location of gentrified Opportunity Zones.
Council on Foundations: “Opportunity Zones – A Value to Your Community?”
Kresge Foundation: LOI Request Brief
Rockefeller Foundation: Statement of Interest in OZs
U.S. Impact Investing Alliance: Comments on OZ issues
Good Jobs First hosted an OZ webinar for journalists during the Investigative Reporters and Editors 2020 conference. Speakers included Eric Lipton of the New York Times, Jeff Ernsthausen of Pro Publica, Oscar Perry Abello of Next City and Lydia O’Neal of Bloomberg Law. The recording of the webinar is available to the public.
Articles by Oscar Perry Abello at Next City:
Articles by Lydia O'Neal in Bloomberg Tax
Lydia O'Neal and Noah Buhayar, "A Trump Tax Break Kicked Off a Rush to Redraw U.S. Census Maps," Bloomberg, February 24, 2021.
David Kocieniewski, "Musk, Bezos Space Race Gets a Boost From Anti-Poverty Tax Break," Bloomberg, December 9, 2020.
Lydia O'Neal, "Opportunity Zones Get Big Push as Critics Question Who They Help," Bloomberg Tax, September 8, 2020.
Sophie Quinton, “Black Businesses Largely Miss Out on Opportunity Zone Money,” Stateline, June 24, 2020.
Noah Buhayar, “Trump Tax Break’s Hidden Frenzy: Corporate Giants are Rushing In.” Bloomberg, December 12, 2019.
Justin Elliott, Jeff Ernsthausen and Kyle Edwards, “A Trump Tax Break To Help The Poor Went To a Rich GOP Donor’s Superyacht Marina,” ProPublica, November 14, 2019.
Megan Luther and Lee Zurik, “Missed Opportunity: Federal initiative meant to help poor neighborhoods benefits the rich,” nbc15.com (Gray TV network), November 04, 2019 (make sure to watch the video).
Eric Lipton and Jesse Drucker, “Symbol of ’80s Greed Stands to Profit From Trump Tax Break for Poor Areas,” New York Times, October 26, 2019.
Jeff Ernsthausen and Justin Elliott, “How a Tax Break to Help the Poor Went to NBA Owner Dan Gilbert,” ProPublica, October 24, 2019.
Sophie Quinton, “Luxury Apartments Get the Tax Breaks Meant to Boost Low-Income Areas,” Stateline, September 25, 2019.
Jesse Drucker and Eric Lipton, “How a Trump Tax Break to Help Poor Communities Became a Windfall for the Rich,” New York Times, August 31, 2019.
Kevin Rector and Christine Condon, “Trump points to Opportunity Zones to argue he’s helped cities like Baltimore. Are they making a difference?” The Baltimore Sun, August 07, 2019.
Jeff Ernsthausen and Justin Elliott, “One Trump Tax Cut Was Meant to Help the Poor. A Billionaire Ended Up Winning Big.” ProPublica/The Baltimore Sun, June 19, 2019. The article revealed that Port Covington, a massive redevelopment project in Baltimore, was designated as an OZ because of a mapping error and political influence.
Lydia DePillis, “A 'mind boggling' tax break was meant to help the poor. But trendy areas are winning too,” CNN Business, June 14, 2019.
Caleb Melby and David Kocieniewski, "Kushners’ Beachfront Strip Eligible for Trump’s Poor-Area Tax Perks. The opportunity zones in the new tax law are supp,” Bloomberg, December 6, 2018.
Back Story on OZs’ Genesis: Steven Bertoni, “An Unlikely Group of Billionaires And Politicians Has Created The Most Unbelievable Tax Break Ever,” Forbes, July 18, 2018.