The IRS’s proposed 50-percent gross income locational rule on the active conduct of Opportunity Zone businesses is garnering criticism from stakeholders and lawmakers alike. The IRS released proposed regulations, NPRM REG-115420-18, for tax reform’s Opportunity Zone program last October.
50-Percent Locational Rule
Many stakeholders have urged the IRS to reconsider its proposed rule requiring that at least 50-percent of gross income of a Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ) business is derived from the active conduct of a trade or business within the QOZ. The IRS heard from several of these stakeholders at a full house public hearing on the proposed regulations held last week at IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“[W]e’re concerned that manufacturing businesses, e-commerce enterprises, and others that have the potential to spur significant economic activity could be excluded inadvertently because of this rule,” Stefan Pryor, Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce said at the hearing. Additionally, other stakeholders commented that the proposed rule would go against congressional intent.
Comment. There is no locational-related rule for gross income of QOZ businesses included in the law’s statutory language. However, the statutory language does provide a tangible property test to ensure qualifying businesses are predominantly located within the QOZ.
QOZ Business Congressional Intent
To that end, the bipartisan, bicameral tax writers who drafted the original QOZ bill language, too, have urged the IRS to remove the 50-percent gross income locational requirement.
The Opportunity Zone program was enacted under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act ( P.L. 115-97) in 2017. The program is housed under new Code Secs. 1400Z-1 and 1400Z-2. Although not a single Democrat voted for the TCJA, the Opportunity Zone program was based on a bicameral measure sponsored by a group of bipartisan tax writers.
“Since many businesses derive income from the sale of goods and services outside of a single census tract, this would significantly limit the ability for local operating businesses to qualify for Opportunity Fund investment, contrary to congressional intent,” the lawmakers wrote in a recent letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “Even for those businesses who might qualify under this rule, it would impose immense new administrative burdens to track and report the location of each source of business income,” they added.
Second Round of Proposed Regulations
Currently, the IRS is working on a second batch of proposed regulations for Opportunity Zones. Those proposed rules “hopefully will see the light of day shortly,” Scott Dinwiddie, an IRS official in the Income Tax and Accounting division said at last week’s hearing.