SNJ and the Opportunity Zone Program – Strike while the OZ is Hot!

On October 19, the U.S. Treasury Department issued proposed regulations for the federal Opportunity Zone tax incentive program created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act.

These regulations were highly anticipated by the real estate development and fund creation communities, which have been eagerly awaiting clarity from Treasury since the creation of the Opportunity Zone program earlier this year.

The program could become the most impactful federal incentive for equity capital investment in low-income and distressed communities ever. It offers significant capital gains tax benefits for taxpayers who invest in projects and businesses in low-income areas, allowing investors to delay, reduce and potentially eliminate capital gains taxes on appreciated assets or business located in and on Qualified Opportunity Zone investments.

Qualified Opportunity Zones are census tracts located in all 50 states in a low-income community. A detailed interactive map by state identifying the applicable opportunity zones is available, https://eig.org/opportunityzones.

As Forbes magazine indicated, there is likely $6 trillion of capital gains in the U.S. that represent potential available investment capital that could use this program to drive investment into applicable Qualified Opportunity Zone businesses or real estate.

The program is not limited to any specific product type nor does it mandate any job creation requirements as part of the investment in a Qualified Opportunity Zone. Thus, the program is applicable to any type of investor with capital gains from the sale of personal property or real property and to developers/owners of all property types including multi-family rental, retail, hotels, industrial, commercial, office, industries, self-storage, assisted-living, affordable housing, etc.

General Overview:

Under the Opportunity Zone program, individuals and other entities can delay paying federal income tax on capital gains until as late as December 31, 2026 – provided those gains are invested in Qualified Opportunity Funds investing 90 percent of their assets in businesses or tangible property located in a Qualified Opportunity Zone. In addition, the gains on investments in Qualified Opportunity Funds can be federal income tax-free if the investment is held for at least 10 years. These tax benefits could reduce the cost of capital for these projects, making them more viable, especially when paired with other development incentives like the New Markets Tax Credit or Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.

Specifically, appreciation on investments within Qualified Opportunity Funds that are held for at least 10 years are excluded from gross income. Thus, the longer one has an investment within a Qualified Opportunity Fund within an Opportunity Zone, the more one can reduce its capital gain – either by 10 percent or 15 percent, and if one stays in the zone for 10 years or more and the property or qualified business appreciated in value, the appreciation is not subject to capital gains tax at the federal level. The regulations as proposed give the investor/owner until December 31, 2047 to sell the business or property in order to take advantage of the no capital gains to be paid on the sale of appreciated assets rules.

Additionally, owners of low tax basis properties can sell their properties and defer the capital gains to the extent the gains are invested in a Qualified Opportunity Zone, which will likely attract investor capital that is looking to defer capital gains, thereby making the Qualified Opportunity Zones potentially more valuable than non-Qualified Opportunity Zone properties.

Deadlines:

While the benefits of the program can be advantageous, investors and developers seeking to capitalize on the Opportunity Zone program need to move quickly in order to take full advantage of the tax benefit as demand increases and the time period diminishes.

In other words, as the program only lasts until 2026, the seven-year ability to reduce capital gains by 15 percent will disappear if investments are not made by 2019 and the five-year ability to reduce capital gains by 10 percent will disappear if not made by 2021. Therefore, if one is interested in maximizing the value of the program and its value to investors, investors and developers need to move quickly to commence development and acquisitions in order to maximize the time periods available to invest their capital gains inside the program windows provided within the program.

Additionally, in order to defer short- and long-term capital gains realized on the sale of property, the capital gain portion of the sale or disposition has to be reinvested within 180 days in a Qualified Opportunity Fund.

Also important to note that gains are required to be recognized on the earlier of a disposal of the Qualified Opportunity Fund investment or by December 31, 2026, and are reduced over time.

The basis of the Qualified Opportunity Zone investment increases by 10 percent of the deferred gain if the investment is held for five years from the date of reinvestment and by 15 percent of the deferred gain if the investment is held for seven years from the date of reinvestment. In other words, the gain on which capital gains is paid is reduced to 85 percent of the original gain.

While the recently announced regulations provided clarity on specific time period for self-certification as an Qualified Opportunity Zone fund, for what constitutes a Qualified Opportunity Zone business and for what structures now qualify as Qualified Opportunity Zone Funds (i.e., limited partnerships, C-corporations, limited liability companies, REITs, RICs, etc.), investors need to be aware that certain rules regarding related parties and original use property still need to be clarified by Treasury in additional regulations.

In Southern New Jersey

In Southern New Jersey, the program will drive investment from all types of developers and investors seeking to place their capital gains into funds and seeking to place applicable businesses into Qualified Zones in order to potentially defer and reduce applicable capital gains. Developers will seek to purchase land in order to build with their own capital and/or equity from Opportunity Zone investment vehicles in order to utilize cheaper sources of capital and drive development returns.

Atypical real estate investors who are looking to defer and reduce capital gains may not be looking for typical real estate like returns due to the fact that they will be able to defer and reduce their capital gains via the Opportunity Zone program which will likely create a healthy dynamic for capital flows. Sectors such as multifamily, warehouse, self-storage, grocery anchor retail, and assisted living will see substantial interest from investors and developers.

In Camden County, areas such as Cinnaminson, Pennsauken, Deptford, Camden, Pine Hill, Glassboro and Lindenwold will likely be hot spots for focused/targeted Opportunity Zone investment. In Atlantic County, parts of Atlantic City, Pleasantville, the Atlantic City International Airport, Somers Point and in Cumberland County a large swath of Vineland has been designated as an Opportunity Zone and will likely see interest for focused/targeted Opportunity Zone investment.

As Confucius once said, it is good to live in interesting times. Not a day goes by without an article or post online regarding Opportunity Zones and the ability to utilize them for development and capital gains deferral.

Now is the time to optimize your capital gains deferrals and reductions if you have them vis-à-vis the sale of personal property or real property. Interested investors are already focusing on deploying capital in New Jersey and elsewhere in substantially improving various asset classes and in creating funds to deploy in investing in various asset classes.

Brad Molotsky is a real estate attorney and partner in Duane Morris’ New Jersey and Philadelphia offices. He advises clients on commercial leasing (including a specialty in cannabis leasing), acquisitions, opportunity zone fund creation and fund deployment, financing, public private partnerships and real estate joint ventures. He can be reached at BAMolotsky@duanemorris.com.

Opportunity Zones – Government Shut Down Stalls US Treasury Clarifications

Putting aside partisan points of view on the wall and whether a government shut down to get a wall paid for is a good idea, the shut down is already impacting US Treasury’s ability to finalize new regulations to clarify certain aspects of the Opportunity Zone program.

Comment letters have been sent in by various trade association and OZ groups my team and I are involved with to the IRS and Treasury but, unfortunately, the clarity we are looking for will need to wait until the shutdown has been resolved plus two weeks thereafter (at least) per a notice posted in the Federal Register. Open issues that the Real Estate Roundtable, Novogradac’s OZ team and others are seeking include the following:
◾Defining original use and substantial improvements
◾Two tiered structures and the “working capital” impact – 31 months
◾How vacant land might qualify as “original use” property
◾Clarifying how and when the 180 day rule applies to certain pass through entities
◾Clarifying how Section 1231 gains of pass through entities are eligible for deferral
◾Seeking a removal of the fixed end of 2047 for sale purposes to qualify for a stepped up basis
◾Clarification regarding the methodology for applying the 90% and 70% asset tests
◾Requesting limitations on non compliance penalties to the portion of the aggregate assets of a QOF that are funded with gains for which a deferral election has been made
◾Definition of “substantially all” – keeping the definition at 70% and generally requiring real property businesses to hold 90% of tangible property inside a QOZ
◾Clarifying if property that straddles a QOZ can treat the improvements as being all within the QOZ
◾Clarifying the requirement that a substantial portion of the intangible property of a QOZB be used in the “active conduct of a trade or business” in the QOZ
◾Clarifying the timing of capital gains and dividend treatment for REITs

While our clients are still closing deals and effectively using the OZ program to defer, reduce and ultimately, hopefully, create a capital gain free sale after 10-years at the federal level, additional clarity would, in fact, be nice.

Border security for sure, but let’s get these rules clarified now so we can spur investment where its needed without the histrionics and the child like tantrums.

See attached Novogradac letter to US Treasury for more details – https://www.novoco.com/system/files/group/Opportunity%20Zones%20Working%20Group/novogradac_wg_comment_letter_proposed_regs_122818.pdf

Looking into the 2019 Crystal Ball – Opportunities (and Zones) Abound

As 2019’s first full week moves towards a close (well, so what if we are working tomorrow or Sunday :)), wishing all fellow P3, public-private partnership and Opportunity Zone participants and those delving into the area, a Happy and a Healthy New Years.

2019 looks to be a busy year in the #OpportunityZone space. With one of the key benefits of the federal program (i.e., a 7-year investment time period with related 15% reduction in invested capital gains) expiring at the end of this coming year, many clients and prospects are extremely focused on deploying capital gains capital into this space in 2019.

My prediction is that if 2019 is anything like the number of calls and conversations and meetings we have been hosting and fielding in the 4th quarter of 2018, it will be a very robust, active and busy year in the OZ space. Having closing multiple deals in the 4th quarter for family office owners, developers and having many on-going conversations regarding Qualified Opportunity Zone businesses and funds, I am very excited for 2019 and all it will bring.

Have a fabulous January and I look forward to speaking with you about OZs and P3s in 2019!

-Brad A. Molotsky

Treasury Dept. Issues Much-Anticipated Opportunity Zone Regulations

On October 19, the U.S. Treasury Department issued the much-anticipated proposed regulations for the federal Opportunity Zone (OZ) tax incentive program created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act, as well as related Revenue Ruling 2018-29.

The guidance indicates that a second set of proposed regulations will be issued later in the year that will address issues such as defining “original use,” the treatment of assets sold by a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) and logistical issues with respect to the movement of tangible assets of a QOF business in and out of an Opportunity Zone.

Read the full text of this Alert on the Duane Morris LLP website.