U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), along with Representatives John Lewis (D-GA) and Richard Neal (D-MA), called on the Government Accountability Office to study the opportunity zones tax incentive program following what they claim are “multiple reports of possible wrongdoing by senior administration officials in implementing the 2017 tax incentive program.”
Separately, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) sent a letter to the chairmen of multiple House committees to request investigative hearings into whether political campaign contributions influenced the designation of opportunity zones in her district and across the country.
The opportunity zones program, based on bipartisan legislation authored by Booker, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), and Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI), creates a tax incentive for individuals who reinvest unrealized capital gains into high-impact, long-term projects in high-poverty communities across the country.
Reps. Booker, Wyden, Lewis and Neal asked the Government Accountability Office to collect and analyze information about how the opportunity zones incentive has been implemented by the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department, how census tracts were designated as opportunity zones, what compliance measures were used to ensure adherence to the law, and how the Treasury Department can measure the effectiveness of the tax incentive.
“Given the breadth of the opportunity zone incentive, the lack of reporting requirements under current law, as well as the high levels of reported interest from taxpayers, we believe it is critical that the Government Accountability Office assist Congress in evaluating the incentive and monitoring its implementation and outcomes.”
The letter, which can be read here, follows another letter Booker sent to the Treasury Department last week calling for an immediate and complete review of its actions certifying opportunity zones for eligibility requirement conformance.
Scott and Booker originally introduced the Investing in Opportunity Act in April 2016, and a provision based on the bill was wrapped into the 2017 GOP tax bill. However, critical reporting requirements that were included in Booker and Scott’s original bill were removed from the final measure that became law in December 2017.
Rep. Tlaib sent a letter to the chairmen of the House Committee on Ways and Means, Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, and the Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations to request that they hold investigative hearings into whether political campaign contributions influenced the designation of opportunity zones in her district in Michigan and across the country.
The congresswoman points to a ProPublica article published last month which reports that opportunity zones were created in areas that did not meet the legal criteria, and they claim this is due to lobbying by wealthy developers and political donors.
ProPublica reported that unqualified opportunity zones were also found in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Oklahoma. Tlaib’s letter can be read here.