U.S. Impact Investing Alliance Executive Director Fran Seegull testified before the Internal Revenue Service on the importance of data collection and transparency in Opportunity Zones at a public hearing held February 14, 2019. Echoing written comments she called on the IRS and Treasury to take action to immediately begin collecting fund- and market-level information related to investments in Opportunity Zones.
The goal of the Opportunity Zones tax benefit, as stated in the preamble to the proposed regulations, is clear: “to encourage economic growth and investment in designated distressed communities.” We believe that data will be essential both to creating these new economic opportunities and to ensuring that people living and working in Zones today are the ultimate beneficiaries.
Through a variety of mechanisms, the collection and reporting of basic data will encourage the flow of private investment capital off the sidelines and into Opportunity Zones.
First, information connects potential investors and Opportunity Fund managers to investment opportunities. Because investors have to deploy capital into Opportunity Funds within 180 days, it is important that we establish tools to quickly identify opportunities that align with their investment objectives and investment timing needs. The Department can facilitate these efforts through appropriately-scaled collection and reporting of basic Opportunity Fund data, to include publicly-available information that would enable investors, operating business owners, developers and other interested parties to connect with Opportunity Funds serving their markets.
Second, transparency around Opportunity Fund activity will help state and local leaders ensure their Opportunity Zones are able to attract investment capital. They might do so by deploying additional resources or by aligning zoning requirements and other economic development policies. Market data will allow community advocates and local officials alike to understand what’s working to stimulate the flow of capital and to adjust state and local policy accordingly in real-time.
Third, consistent and transparent collection of Opportunity Fund data will allow for a rigorous evaluation of the Opportunity Zones policy itself. A common framework for collection and reporting of Opportunity Fund data should create a baseline data set. This will enable the long-term evaluation of the policy and its impacts on Opportunity Zones, both individually and in aggregate.