Tallahassee Democrat: Large turnout to learn about 'Opportunity Zones' in Tallahassee
BY TAMARYN WATERS
A sold-out workshop Thursday offered insight on how Opportunity Zones are designed to improve blighted areas.
As part of the 2017 federal tax reform, Opportunity Zones allow anyone with capital gains to make long-term investments in exchange for tax breaks in urban and rural low-income areas.
Tucker Thoni, with Gray Robinson Attorneys at Law in Orlando, who specializes in tax law, said Opportunity Zones are the federal version of Community Redevelopment Agency districts.
“Let’s say the CRA is giving out money and gives $1 million to a developer in the hopes they are going to increase the property tax base enough to pay back more than $1 million over time,” Thoni said. “But it’s still a gamble with a local community’s dollars. The Opportunity Zones (program) is the federal government taking on that risk, and the federal government is giving an indirect subsidy and tax benefit for you to go and invest in blighted areas.”
Hosted by the Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality, the workshop mirrored others taking place nationwide.The workshop was the first in Florida to focus on how Opportunity Zones can help local communities.
Tallahassee has eight Opportunity Zones along census tracts in five districts. The districts are Magnetic Northwest, Florida State University Central, Greater Frenchtown, Florida A&M University Central and Greater South side.
The main reasons for considering the new program are tax deferments on capital gains until Dec. 31, 2026, and a savings on capital gains taxes for investments held for five, seven or 10 years. By the 10th year, an investor wouldn't have to pay any capital gains tax on the appreciation of the asset, according to weatlhmanagement.com.
"Opportunity Zones appear to be a new tool in the tool box,” said Kevin Graham, executive director of the Real Estate Foundation at Florida State University. “FSU has property that may be impacted by Opportunity Zones, and we’re simply here today to learn more about that.”
While it's an attractive incentive, some aspects regarding Opportunity Zones are unclear. The federal government is working to address those issues, several panelists said. For example, Thoni said there's a question about whether vacant land within Opportunity Zones would receive the tax incentives.
“There’s a dichotomy that’s tough to navigate with there being so much regulatory uncertainty,” Thoni said. “On the other hand, there’s a lot of opportunity here. People who can navigate these murky waters efficiently in this uncertain time are going to profit greatly from it.”
OEV Director Cristina Parades said the sold-out attendance speaks to the high interest around these areas.
“That’s clearly shown in the packed house today, ,” Parades said. "When we first started planning it, we thought we’d have about 75 people. We have a sold-out registration of over 160 people.”