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IRS Issues Guidance on Qualified Opportunity Zones

October 22, 2018

By: Amanda Wilson

The 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act included significant new tax benefits for investments in qualified opportunity zones. Specifically, taxpayers can defer tax recognition on capital gains when the gains are reinvested in a qualified opportunity fund, which is a partnership or corporation that invests in qualified opportunity zones. In addition, the gains from the investment in the fund can be permanently eliminated if the investment is held for at least 10 years.

Qualified opportunity zones are a new concept, and tax practitioners and investors have been eagerly awaiting guidance on how these new rules will be implemented. The IRS released its first round of guidance on Friday, in the form of proposed regulations and a revenue ruling. This guidance clarified several important issues. For example, qualified opportunity zone property includes tangible property if the qualified opportunity fund substantially improves tangible property located in a qualified opportunity zone. It was unclear what this meant in the context of property such as a building. Revenue Ruling 2018-29 answers this question by providing that substantial improvement occurs when the cost of the improvements is equal to at least the adjusted basis in the building, rather than requiring the improvements to cost at least the adjusted basis in the building and the underlying land. In addition, the qualified opportunity fund is not required to separately substantially improve the land upon which the building is located.

The proposed regulations also clarify that a qualified opportunity fund does not need to be a newly formed entity, and that only capital gains qualify for this new tax regime. The regulations also clarify that 100% gain elimination (for gains occurring from the investment in the fund) is available if the investment is held for at least ten years, even if the designation of an opportunity zone expires prior to the ten year anniversary of the investment. This last piece of clarification addressed a significant concern of many tax practitioners, as the designation of all of the current opportunity zones expires December 31, 2028. The regulations also provide that taxpayers can generally rely on the proposed regulations at this time.

The regulations leave many questions unanswered for now as the regulations reserved several important issues, including what constitutes the active conduct of a trade or business and whether residential real estate qualifies. Stay tuned for further developments as additional guidance is issued.

 


Amanda

A member of the firm’s tax practice, Amanda Wilson concentrates on federal tax planning and structuring. She represents clients in a wide variety of complex federal tax matters with a particular emphasis on pass-through entities such as partnerships, S corporations and real estate investment trusts. Specifically, Amanda focuses on advising clients on the formation, operation, acquisition and restructuring of such pass-through entities. In addition, she regularly advises clients on the structuring and operation of private equity funds, real estate funds and timber funds. Amanda is the author of the Bloomberg Tax Management Portfolio 718-3rd Edition, Partnerships- Disposition of Partnership Interests or Partnership Business; Partnership Termination.

Amanda regularly works in structuring deals to benefit from tax advantaged structures, including like-kind exchanges, new market tax credits, low income housing tax credits, and qualified opportunity zones. Amanda also has extensive experience in corporate planning and international tax matters, as well as federal tax controversy. Her practice before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) includes providing advice on audits and appeals, drafting protests and ruling requests, and negotiating settlements.

Prior to joining the firm, Amanda worked for Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP (now Eversheds Sutherland), an Am Law 100 firm in the Atlanta office, where she was part of Sutherland’s Tax Practice Group. Amanda has also served as an adjunct professor at Emory University School of Law where she taught Partnership Taxation.

Amanda regularly contributes to the firm’s Taxing Times blog and is a regular panelist on tax webinars hosted by Strafford Publications.

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