In business, as in life, when opportunity knocks, you need to be ready to open the door to new possibilities.
One such opportunity in Currituck County, North Carolina, is – appropriately enough – known as an Opportunity Zone.
Businesses, jobs and millions of dollars are finding their way there.
An Opportunity Zone, according to irs.gov, is “an economically distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment.”
Or, as Blue Ridge Public Radio puts it, Opportunity Zones are “ripe for investment.”
So what could the economic and employment impact be in Currituck?
“It is too early to quantify any real savings for these companies who will make the investments,” Currituck Economic Development Director Larry Lombardi said via email. “However, the economic development impact will be in the range from $30 million to $50 million along with new jobs being created – from 25 up to 100 in our Opportunity Zone.”
And that’s just for one Opportunity Zone. North Carolina has more than 250 Opportunity Zones in 98 of 100 counties, according to bpr.org, the website for Blue Ridge Public Radio.
Currituck’s lone Opportunity Zone, Census tract #37053110302, encompasses a significant portion of middle Currituck, including Maple, Barco and Shawboro. The Currituck County Regional Airport and Maple Commerce Park are covered.
Lombardi provided a June 2019 update on projects under development and/or planned for the Currituck Opportunity Zone:
• A planned 100-room hotel project in Barco is still in the preliminary talks stage.
• A 47,600-square-foot Public Safety Building in Maple will open in late 2020.
• The 85-acre, site-ready, state-certified Maple Commerce Park has 25 acres under contract, pending a sales-and-purchase agreement.
• An Intracoastal Waterway lay-down site for the Mid-Currituck Bridge in Coinjock is still in the preliminary stage.
• A future waterfront mixed-use redevelopment is proposed for the Intracoastal Waterway.
HOW OPPORTUNITY ZONES WORK
Opportunity Zones were created to encourage investment and development in neglected areas. United States localities applied and were awarded zones by the government.
According to Blue Ridge Public Radio, investors who use capital gains to invest in a designated opportunity zone get an immediate deferment on those gains. To encourage what the North Carolina Department of Commerce calls “patient development,” bpr.org said additional federal capital gains tax breaks get sweeter after five and seven years. After a decade, they are permanently exempt from capital gains taxation.
The Internal Revenue Service website states that localities qualify as Opportunity Zones if they have been nominated for that designation by the state and that nomination has been certified by the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury via his delegation of authority to the IRS.
Opportunity Zones were added to the tax code December 22, 2017. The first zones, touching 18 states, were designated April 9, 2018. Now there are Opportunity Zones in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.
NORTH CAROLINA’S OPPORTUNITY ZONES
There are 252 tracts in North Carolina that have received the Opportunity Zone designation. According to the NC Department of Commerce those areas represent:
• A total population of more than 1.1 million people
• Nearly 45,000 families with children in poverty
• More than 50,000 business establishments
• More than $580 million in received public and private investments over the past five years
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Here, via the IRS, are some answers to questions you might have about Opportunity Zones:
How do Opportunity Zones spur economic development?
Opportunity Zones are designed to spur economic development by providing tax benefits to investors. First, investors can defer tax on any prior gains invested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) until the earlier of the date on which the investment in a QOF is sold or exchanged, or December 31, 2026. If the QOF investment is held for longer than five years, there is a 10 percent exclusion of the deferred gain. If held for more than seven years, the 10 percent becomes 15 percent. Second, if the investor holds the investment in the Opportunity Fund for at least 10 years, the investor is eligible for an increase in basis of the QOF investment equal to its fair market value on the date that the QOF investment is sold or exchanged.
What is a Qualified Opportunity Fund?
A Qualified Opportunity Fund is an investment vehicle that is set up as either a partnership or corporation for investing in eligible property that is located in a Qualified Opportunity Zone.
Do I need to live in an Opportunity Zone to take advantage of the tax benefits?
No. You can get the tax benefits, even if you don’t live, work or have a business in an Opportunity Zone. All you need to do is invest a recognized gain in a Qualified Opportunity Fund and elect to defer the tax on that gain.
RULES ON TAX BREAKS
President Donald Trump’s administration released regulations in April 2019 that could help venture capitalists, Native American tribes and entrepreneurs benefit from Opportunity Zones, The New York Times reported. Backers of the zones, The Times added, had complained to the administration that its regulations could push most of that money into real estate development, rather than start-up businesses that are more likely to create well-paying jobs. The new rules appeared to ease many of those fears.
Under the 169-page proposed regulation at src.bna.com/Hra, meant to clarify the 2017 tax law that created the zones, investors can take advantage of the tax breaks in several ways. According to The Times, the new methods are particularly important for investors who hope to fund such ventures as new grocery stores and coffee shops.
Interested in looking closer at Currituck County's Opportunity Zone?
More resources for Opportunity Zones: