The Federal Opportunity Zones Program and Its Implications for California Communities

(California Budget and Policy Center)

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By Kayla Kitson

The 2017 federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) included a provision creating a new program designed to encourage private investments in economically distressed communities. The Opportunity Zones program provides federal tax incentives for investments in areas that meet certain criteria and have been designated as Opportunity Zones (OZs). Additionally, Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2019-20 budget proposal would provide state-level tax incentives for investments in OZs. There are 879 designated OZs in California, located in nearly all of the state’s counties. More than 4 million Californians live in these areas and will be potentially impacted by new investments eligible for Opportunity Zones tax incentives. The Opportunity Zones program has the potential to encourage new investments in eligible communities that improve the lives of residents with low incomes. However, the vast majority of the tax benefits will be realized by wealthy investors, and the program may accelerate gentrification in some areas or subsidize investments that offer little or no benefit to community residents.

This Issue Brief, the first in a series of Budget Center publications exploring the Opportunity Zones program, explains the structure of the program, its tax incentives, and how California’s communities may be affected.

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