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Bipartisan Bill Aims To Reform Opportunity Zones


A bill to make major changes to the opportunity zone program has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, with sponsors that include both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

The legislation, called the Opportunity Zones Transparency, Extension, and Improvement Act, would reinstate and expand reporting requirements for OZs that were included in the original 2016 version of the bill designed to create the zones. The requirements were later removed when language creating opportunity zones was folded into the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The lack of reporting requirements has been a longstanding criticism of the program, making it hard to know whether it is doing what it was designed to do: promote economic activity in underinvested areas. A General Accounting Office report in late 2020 found that the program isn't monitored closely enough to judge its impact.

"There's still a need for more kind of transparency and reporting requirements," Revitate partner and Chief Operating Officer Kunal Merchant told Bisnow in February. "That would help investors further understand the program, and it would further build trust, which is still important for the future of the program."

The measure would also sunset a few OZs in census tracts that have a median household income at or above 130% of the national median. States would then be able to designate new OZs to replace them, presumably in lower-income census tracts.

Reports of OZs benefiting investors in well-to-do places have also dogged the program for years, as has the irregular nature of a few of the zones.

Other changes to the program include allowing qualified opportunity zone funds to invest in other QOFs and extending the lifespan of the program by two years; June 28, 2027, is the final deadline to invest in an opportunity zone fund to realize a 10-year gain exclusion.

Sens. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, and Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, who introduced the original version of the OZ program in 2016, introduced the reform package in the Senate. Reps. Ron Kind, a Democrat from Wisconsin, and Mike Kelly, a Republican from Pennsylvania, introduced it in the House.