Opportunity CLE, a collaboration between the city of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Cleveland Development Advisors, the Fund for Our Economic Future and the Cuyahoga Land Bank, on Thursday launched its strategy for taking advantage of the federal “Opportunity zone” program.
The opportunity zone program, created as part of the 2017 federal tax overhaul, allows investors who put capital gains from unrelated investments into opportunity zones, meaning low-income Census tracts that meet certain criteria, to delay or avoid paying taxes on those profits.
“The floodgates are about to open regarding investment in opportunity zones, and we are gearing up to aggressively compete for investments in Cuyahoga County projects,” said Joe Roman, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, in a statement. There is an estimated $6 trillion in unrealized capital gains in the U.S., according to Opportunity CLE. The opportunity zone program aims to put those dollars into distressed communities in need of investment.
Now, investors can take profits from unrelated investments, put them into real estate, businesses or infrastructure in an opportunity zone and benefit in a few ways: delay paying taxes on capital gains by putting the money into a fund focused on opportunity zones; avoid paying taxes on a portion of those original gains if they maintain their opportunity-fund investments for five to seven years; and avoid paying taxes on any new gains from their opportunity-zone investments if they invest for at least 10 years.
One criticism of the opportunity zone program has been that some zones are in areas already attracting plenty of investment, while some of the region’s most-distressed communities, such as East Cleveland, did not get any, raising questions about equity. “We’ll be working on working with the federal agencies to try to enhance the programs that already exist.
So, reauthorizing the New Markets Tax Credits program would be a component of that, and driving more of those types of dollars into these communities,” said Yvette Ittu, president of Cleveland Development Advisors, a real-estate investment affiliate of GCP.They will also advocate for potential enhancements to the program, such as Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposal for a tax credit incentive for investment in opportunity zones.