OZ: NY moves to reduce certain state Opportunity Zone benefits for NY deals – Smart, Necessary or Something Else?

New York legislators have moved forward in their 2021 budget process to limit some of the state Opportunity Zone benefits that had previously applied in New York. Some commentators have pointed to the budget process reduction of benefits as a “left wing” reaction to former President Trump’s support of the federal OZ program (which applies in all 50 states and the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico). Others have stated that it is a necessary move to reduce benefits for deals that should not be receiving federal and state benefits.

If the budget is approved, and the provisions become operative, New York will no longer offer some of the state tax benefits to real estate investors funding Opportunity Zone projects in New York, placing New York deals at a disadvantage to New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio and other adjacent states that have approved and will retain their state benefits.

The OZ program is a Federal program that was enacted in 2017 and which became operative in 2018.  Governors of all 50 states, including New York, were asked to review census data provided by the federal government which focused the Opportunity Zone program on low income areas throughout the US as identified in HUD census data from 2010. The Governors of all 50 states were then given 3 months to choose from within the potential applicable opportunity zones in their state which zones should become Opportunity Zones.  Thereafter, once these zones were selected by the various governors, they were sent to Treasury for final approval, all of which selected zones were ultimately approved.

This process occurred during early 2018.  Thereafter, the majority of states also “followed form” and permitted zones that the states had previously selected to be OZs to also be eligible for state benefits which would be the same as the federal benefits that existed under the program (i.e., (1) deferral of capital gains until 12-31-2026 (the “Deferral Benefit“); (2) potential reduction of the amount that is subject to tax by 15% if gain eligible dollars were invested into a qualified opportunity zone fund in 2018 or 2019, or 10% if gain eligible dollars were invested into a qualified opportunity zone fund in 2020 or 2021 (the “Reduction Benefit“); and, (3) if the investor followed the rules of the OZ Program and invested an amount of gain eligible dollars into a QOF (the “fund”) and left its investment in the QOF for 10 years or more, and, thereafter the QOF sold the property or the business it owned after the 10 year period but before 12-31-2047, then all gain on the sale of the business or real estate would NOT be subject to federal capital gains tax (the “Exclusion Benefit”).  By electing to follow form, the states that did so, elected to have the Deferral Benefit, the Reduction Benefit and the Exclusion Benefit also apply at the state level on gains that would have otherwise been payable to the state; meaning the applicable states would also permit investments in their applicable OZ areas to obtain a state level Deferral Benefit, Reduction Benefit and the Exclusion Benefit.

New York, like all of its adjacent neighboring states, was one of the states that enacted legislation to incent Opportunity Zone investments by permitted such OZ benefits at the state level (i.e., the Deferral Benefit, the Reduction Benefit and the Exclusion Benefit at the New York level).

Under the 2021 New York budget proposal, the New York Deferral Benefit and the New York Reduction Benefits at the New York level would NO LONGER be applicable.  The result of this change is that investors in New York businesses in the New York OZs and in real estate in the New York OZ, will no longer receive the same benefits as neighboring states, which could result in investors looking at these other adjacent states first or in a more meaningful way, given that the state level OZ incentives exist there rather than in New York.

While some commentators have stated this will “deal[] another blow to the program and developers taking advantage of it”, my personal view is that the benefits being eliminated in the budget process (i.e., deferral of capital gains payments until 12-31-2026 and reduction of the amount subject to tax by 10% if investment was made in 2020 or 2021), are not the real driver of the OZ program and the massive amount of investment that has occurred in the low and moderate income opportunity zones nationally since the enactment of the OZ program – rather, it is the Exclusion Benefit, which is NOT being eliminated in New York, that is the main driver of behavior in the OZs.

Even with the New York budget modifications, New York’s 514 census tracts included in the program will still qualify for federal tax incentives for investing in these distressed areas and the New York Exclusion Benefit will still apply.

Follow The Yellow Brick Road:  So, has New York cut off its nose to spite its face?  Slightly, as some investors who are seeking both federal and state benefits to justify a more difficult project will likely look elsewhere.  That said, the real driver of transactions in the OZ space as noted above is the Exclusion Benefit which applies once one has been invested in the applicable opportunity zone for 10 years or more, and this benefit, notwithstanding the New York change, will still exist at BOTH the federal and New York state level.  On balance, while the budget change sounds like a big move and strikes a blow for anti-Trump sentiment, in reality, the real opportunity of the OZ program in hopefully creating jobs for local residents will remain and the Exclusion Benefit driver will remain in tact and continue to provide a reinforcer for this type of behavior.

Duane Morris has an active Tax Credits and Opportunity Zone Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and invest in Opportunity Zones and low income areas throughout the USA, including the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico using tax credit equity and standard equity. We have closed over 73 OZ deals since their inception and are actively working on over 33 OZ projects for owner/developers, investors and business owners. We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Art Momjian, Scott Gluck, Lee Potter, Keli Isaacson Whitlock, Anastasios Kastrinakis, or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Take care and stay safe.

OZ: Bi-Partisan Legislation introduced to extend OZ investment period to 2028

Who says our Congress is not interested in bi-partisan legislation?

U.S. Representatives Tim Burchett (TN-02) and Henry Cuellar (TX-28) introduced a bi-partisan piece of legislation entitled the Opportunity Zone Extension Act of 2021. This bipartisan legislation would extend the Opportunity Zones program until the end of 2028.

“The Opportunity Zones program was making a difference in East Tennessee communities and underserved areas around the country before the COVID-19 pandemic rocked our economy,” Rep. Burchett said. “Extending this program would give investors additional time to provide meaningful financial support to businesses and create quality, good paying jobs in Opportunity Zones.”

According to Congressman Henry Cuellar. “This critical legislation will help stimulate economic growth, job creation, and provide support to underdeveloped communities. Through this legislation we will be able to help accelerate our economy’s recovery from the pandemic. I am committed to making sure everyone has access to opportunity and can achieve the American dream.”

Currently, the Opportunity Zones program allows participating investors to defer taxes on capital gains that are invested in designated Opportunity Zones until the end of 2026. Rep. Burchett’s and Rep. Cuellar’s bill would extend this date and allows capital gains to be deferred until the end of 2028.

Opportunity Zones are located in economically distressed areas across the United States.

According to the sponsors, extending the Opportunity Zones program by 2 years is intended to attract private sector investment in underserved communities, building on pre-pandemic success and helping them come back stronger than before.

While it is too early to tell if this piece of OZ extension legislation is likely to get any legs given the current pressures on Congress, its bi-partisan support puts it in good stead for future conversation and, potentially for action, once Congress deals with the current Covid bill and likely an infrastructure bill.  We will keep our eyes and ears open and report back on developments on this front.

Duane Morris has an active Tax Credits and Opportunity Zone Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and invest in Opportunity Zones and low income areas throughout the USA, including the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico using tax credit equity and standard equity. We have closed over 63 OZ deals since their inception and are actively working on over 33 OZ projects for owner/developers, investors and business owners. We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Art Momjian, Scott Gluck, Lee Potter, Keli Isaacson Whitlock, Anastasios Kastrinakis, or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Take care and stay safe.  

IRS Extends Various Opportunity Zone Deadlines to March 31, 2021 given COVID-19

Taxpayers who recognized a capital gain in 2020 may have until March 31, 2021 to invest in a Qualified Opportunity Zone Fund (“QOF”), according to a new notice issued by the IRS last week.

On January 20, 2021, the IRS issued Notice 2021-10, which provided additional relief to taxpayers by postponing certain due dates to March 31, 2021.

Under Section 1400Z-2 of the Code, taxpayers normally have 180 days to invest capital gains in a QOF to be eligible for Opportunity Zone tax treatment.

One of the deadlines postponed by a previous relief notice was a taxpayer’s 180-day deadline for investing capital gain eligible dollars into a QOF.  For any 180-day period that ended on or after April 1, 2020 and before July 15, 2020, the deadline was initially extended to July 15, 2020. Thereafter, under IRS Notice 2020-39 further relief for QOFs was granted to allow any 180-day period that ended on or after April 1, 2020 and before December 31, 2020, to be extended to December 31, 2020.

With their latest Notice, given the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS again extended various deadlines again for QOFs and their investors to March 31, 2021.

In practical terms for an individual taxpayer, for any gain recognized on or after April 1, 2020 and before March 31, 2021, effectively, there is no 180-day period, rather, a March 31, 2021 deadline applies to invest their gain in a QOF. As such, the new IRS notice, gives some investors with 2020 capital gains (i.e., those with gains from April 1, 2020 to October 2, 2020) more time than originally anticipated for investment in OZs. For any gain recognized on or after October 2, 2020, the standard 180-day period will once again apply.

Other relief provided in the new notice applies to Qualified Opportunity Fund compliance deadlines, including extensions for complying with the 90% investment standard, the 30-month substantial improvement period, the 31 month working capital safe harbor, and the 12-month reinvestment period.

Duane Morris has an active Tax Credits and Opportunity Zone Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and invest in Opportunity Zones and low income areas throughout the USA, including the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico using tax credit equity and standard equity. We have closed over 61 OZ deals since their inception and are actively working on over 38 OZ projects for owner/developers, investors and business owners. We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Art Momjian, Scott Gluck, Lee Potter, Keli Isaacson Whitlock, Anastasios Kastrinakis, or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Take care and stay safe.  

COVID-19: Philadelphia Bucks PA Loosening of Covid-19 Restrictions on 1-4-21 and, instead, extends restrictions until 1-15-21

Notwithstanding PA’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions as of 8 am on January 4, 2021, Philadelphia has opted to extend restrictions on indoor dining, theaters, casinos and other indoor events until January 15, 2021 due to expectations regarding the holiday season.

As such, Philadelphia will continue to prohibits indoor dining, indoor gatherings or events, theaters, casinos, colleges with in-person instruction and indoor organized sports from operating. These restrictions were previously set to expire on Jan. 1, 2021.

Per the Philadelphia Business Journal, the restrictions were extended on what the Philadelphia Department of Public Health determined to be “higher risk” of transmission in enclosed spaces without ample ventilation, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said Tuesday.

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Elizabeth Mincer, Sharon Caffrey, or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Be well and stay safe. Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Years to you and yours!

ESG – The Potential for a Biden Administration and Bi-Partisan Climate Change Action in 2021

As we almost turn the page from 2020 to 2021, many have cause for optimism with regard to the incoming Biden Administration and the potential for bi-partisan climate change engagement and action.  A hint of cautious optimism is, indeed, in the air.

Why???

President elect Biden campaigned on an ambitious climate action agenda and both R’s and D’s seem ready to address climate change and risk as part of a renewed focus on the environment.

President-elect Biden’s plans include re-engagement on various green energy and infrastructure projects and also include proposals to address environmental racism as part of the previously announced “Build Back Better” program.

So, what is first on the agenda:

Paris Accord – the U.S. will re-enter the Paris climate accord and will likely look to re-engage on various environmental regulatory rollbacks put into place by President Donald Trump — these can be done by executive action.

Other Executive Orders – President elect Biden has indicated an interest to limit oil and gas drilling on public lands and in public waters, increase gas mileage standards for vehicles and to block the construction of specific fossil fuel pipelines – these can also be done by executive order.

Legislation – much will depend on where the Georgia Senatorial run-off elections end up.  If the Republican party is able to hold onto control of the Senate, however, there still appears to be interest by both parties for climate change policy.

Policy – Biden has also promised to pursue:

  • a 100% clean electricity standard by 2035 (a proposal that could mean the shuttering or total renovation of all coal-fired and gas-fired power plants in the U.S.);
  • Net Zero – attempting to get to net-zero emissions by 2050, at the latest.
  • Renewable Energy – a $2 trillion investment in renewable energy projects, with 40% of the funds benefiting communities of color that have been harmed by pollutants.
  • Green Infrastructure – coordinated systems based approach to agency procurement to focus across the Federal landscape of agencies (e.g., on 
    Transportation, Interior and the GSA) to help build new green infrastructure and incentivize developing green energy sources
  • State Department is likely to be used to focus other international powers to similarly focus on climate policy and carbon emissions.

    Per reporting from ABC News, the Growing Climate Solutions Act, sponsored by Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., focuses on carbon-capture technologies in the agricultural sector, while Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Whitehouse have put together another bipartisan bill focused on increasing carbon-capture methods that occur naturally within ocean and coastal ecosystems.
  • Moreover, Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., have proposed a 10-year public and private partnership to invest in clean energy and infrastructure and subsequent new regulations.

Duane Morris has an active ESG and Sustainability Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on Sustainability and ESG planning and initiatives within their own space.  We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you.  Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Sheila Slocum Hollis, Patrick Morand, Brad Thompson or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

COVID-19: Philadelphia Extends Indoor Restrictions until 1-15-2021

As of December 22, 2020, Philadelphia announced it will extend its previously announced restrictions on indoor dining, theaters, casinos and other indoor events until January 15, 2021.

Per the Philadelphia Business Journal, the extension prohibits indoor dining, indoor gatherings or events, theaters, casinos, colleges with in-person instruction and indoor organized sports from operating. These restrictions were previously set to expire on January 1, 2021.

Pennsylvania’s in place, state wide restrictions on indoor dining are set to expire on January 4, 2021. Philadelphia, given its size, has its own set of restrictions regarding indoor activities.

The Philadelphia Health Department advised that if case rates don’t rise more than expected, some “lower risk” activities like museums, outdoor sports, gyms, in-person learning at high schools and outdoor catered events will be permitted to resume on January 4, 2021.

For those indoor activities allowed to resume, capacity must be limited to fewer than five people per 1,000 square feet and masks must be worn at all times.

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Elizabeth Mincer, Sharon Caffrey, or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Be well and stay safe.

New Markets Tax Credits and Opportunity Zones – Bill Proposed in the US Senate to make NMTC Permanent and prioritize grant funding in OZs

Earlier this week, 4 Senators introduced legislation that would make the new markets tax credit (NMTC) permanent and would seek to encourage further investment in opportunity zones (OZs).

Senators Marco Rubio, R-Florida, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, and Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, cosponsored the Economic Empowerment for Underserved Communities Act.

The bill, a summary of which is attached, makes the NMTC permanent with a $5 Billion annual allocation adjusted for inflation.

Per Novogradac and the Senator’s office announcement, the legislation also encourages investment in Opportunity Zones (“OZs) by establishing representatives to facilitate participation in the OZ program, prioritizes grant assistance in OZs through the Health Resource and Services Administration, allocates $7 Billion to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), establishes a Small Business Investment Company facility to enhance access to venture capital for underserved groups and businesses affected by COVID-19, and extends Small Business Administration debt relief provisions from the CARES Act.

The NMTC is authorized only through the calendar-year 2020 round. 

Senator Loeffler’s office released a summary of the bill.

Duane Morris has an active Tax Credits and Opportunity Zone Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and invest in Opportunity Zones and low income areas throughout the USA, including the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico using tax credit equity and standard equity. We have closed over 61 OZ deals since their inception and are actively working on over 38 OZ projects for owner/developers, investors and business owners. We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Art Momjian, Scott Gluck, Lee Potter, Keli Isaacson Whitlock, Anastasios Kastrinakis, or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

New Markets Tax Credits – Expansion and Extension of $3.5 Billion proposed over the next 4 years – WOW!

Earlier this week on December 14, 2020, Reps. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, and Tom Reed, R-New York, introduced legislation to extend and increase the new markets tax credit (NMTC).

The New Markets Stabilization Act would increase the NMTC allocation by $3.5 billion over four years, allow investors to carry back those credits for five years, exempt the NMTC from the 75% general business credit limitation, permanently exempt the NMTC from the alternative minimum tax and provide relief from certain debt modification rules for NMTC issuers and borrowers.

Per Novogradac, Sewell and Reed previously introduced legislation to make the NMTC permanent.

The NMTC expires at the end of this year, although the calendar-year 2020 round will be allocated next summer.

Duane Morris has an active Tax Credits and Opportunity Zone Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and invest in Opportunity Zones and low income areas throughout the USA, including the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico using tax credit equity and standard equity. We have closed over 61 OZ deals since their inception and are actively working on over 38 OZ projects for owner/developers, investors and business owners.  We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you.  Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Art Momjian, Scott Gluck, Lee Potter, Keli Isaacson Whitlock, AK Kastrinakis, or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

ESG – United Airlines makes significant carbon sequestration Joint Venture investment – with a goal to be 100% carbon neutral by 2050

Carbon SequestrationUnited Airlines announced earlier today, Thursday, December 10, 2020 that it is making a “multi-million dollar investment” into carbon capture and sequestration technology, a move they say will help them reach a goal of 100% carbon-free by 2050.

United said it is developing the carbon sequestration technology through a joint venture  with Occidental and Rusheen Capital Management.

Known as “direct air capture,” the technology is intended to capture carbon dioxide from the air and, thereafter, store it underground.

“As the leader of one of the world’s largest airlines, I recognize our responsibility in contributing to fight climate change, as well as our responsibility to solve it,” reads a statement from United Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby.

Per NJ Biz, United is one of the largest employers in New Jersey, and uses Newark Liberty International Airport as one of its major hubs. Their air traffic makes up close to 70% of the flights in and out of the airport.

Airlines typically account for approximately 3% of worldwide carbon emission, even with the significantly reduced COVID-19 pandemic impacted travel. 

If airlines were all aggregated together and compared to countries internationally, they would place 6th out of all countries in the world in terms of negative emissions impact.  Moreover, while aircraft have become much more fuel efficient since the 1970’s, they have significantly increased their collective emissions – increasing by 70% the amount of carbon emissions from 2005 to 2020.

The Murphy administration’s announced goal is to move NJ towards a 100% clean and renewable sourcing of energy by 2050, including solar and offshore wind capacity.

Duane Morris has an active Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Team to help clients and NGOs, respond to, and evaluate ESG, sustainability, energy efficiency and climate change risks, regulations and mandates as well as counsels on how to structure investments in various verticals that are creating technology that responds to the issues posed by Climate Change and ESG.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Seth Cooley, David Amerikaner or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

New Markets Tax Credits – Record Number of 2020 Applications; $5B in credits to be awarded

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) announced earlier this week that it received 208 applications under the calendar year (CY) 2020 round of the New Markets Tax Credit Program (NMTC Program).

Per Treasury, the NMTC Program advances economic development in economically distressed communities by making tax credit allocations available to Community Development Entities (CDEs) for targeted investments in eligible areas.

The CDEs that applied under the CY 2020 round are headquartered in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These applicants requested an aggregate total of $15.1 billion in NMTC allocation authority, over 3x the $5.0 billion in authority available for the 2020 round.

Created by Congress in December of 2000, the NMTC Program permits individual and corporate taxpayers to receive a credit against federal income taxes for making qualified equity investments in CDEs. The investor is provided a tax credit that equals 39% of the cost of the investment and is claimed over a seven-year period. Substantially all of the taxpayer’s investment must be used by the CDE to make qualified investments in low-income communities.

According to Treasury statistics, through the first 16 rounds of the NMTC Program, the CDFI Fund has made 1,254 awards totaling $61 billion in tax credit allocation authority. This $61 billion includes $3 billion in Recovery Act Awards and $1 billion of special allocation authority to be used for the recovery and redevelopment of the Gulf Opportunity Zone.

Duane Morris has an active Tax Credits and Opportunity Zone Team to help CDCs and other organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and invest in typical deals as well as Opportunity Zones and low income areas throughout the USA, including the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. We have closed over 61 OZ deals since their inception and are actively working on over 38 OZ projects for owner/developers, investors and business owners.  We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you.  Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Art Momjian, Scott Gluck, Lee Potter, Keli Isaacson Whitlock, AK Kastrinakis, or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.