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Opinion: Economic Opportunity Zones in tax bill should energize growth

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(Sinclair Broadcast Group){ }

EDITOR'S NOTE: Boris Epshteyn formerly served as a Senior Advisor to the Trump Campaign and served in the White House as Special Assistant to The President and Assistant Communications Director for Surrogate Operations.

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - The tax reform passed in December has a hidden gem. A provision deep in the tax bill is geared to revitalizing distressed communities throughout America.

We all remember the Great Recession of the late 2000s. From 2008 to 2010, 170,000 small businesses closed.

During the downturn, 8.7 million jobs were lost.

The general assumption is that jobs and businesses came back across the country. That is not the case.

Rural areas, however, have continued to struggle. Only 3 percent of job growth between 2010 and 2014 happened in rural communities. More businesses in those areas closed than were opened during that time.

The tax bill aims to change that in creating incentives by, of course, cutting taxes.

Each state and Washington, D.C. is going to designate “Opportunity Zones” in their most distressed sections. Opportunity Funds are being put together which will invest into starting new businesses in the Opportunity Zones, supporting current ones and developing real estate there.

Why would investors put their money in the Opportunity Funds? Tax breaks.

A tax on profits made from investments held for 12 months or longer is called the capital gains tax. That rate maxes out at 20 percent with a 3.8 percent surtax.

If a funder makes a new investment in an Opportunity Fund and keeps it there for 10 years or more they will pay no capital gains at all.

Moreover, many banks, hedge funds and individuals have investments which have appreciated but have not been sold, so the gains have not been realized. When the investment is sold and there is a gain, the capital gains tax will be applied.

Under the new tax bill, if the money is reinvested into an Opportunity Fund a portion of the tax would be deferred. If the investment remains in place for seven years, for example, only 85 percent of the original capital gains tax would be due. More than $2 trillion in capital gains have not been realized by companies and individuals in the United States. This could be a very significant tax savings while benefiting areas which need investment.

Past attempts to use specific zones to revitalize distressed communities have not moved the needle enough because they were narrow in scope and the tax breaks were not as significant.

Here is the bottom line: stimulating local economies by creating incentives works. Look at the scores of businesses and individuals which move to states with low tax rates. If implemented correctly Opportunity Zones should bring back businesses and jobs to rural areas and distressed communities throughout our country.