Opportunity Zones Update – Defer, Reduce, and Even Eliminate Taxes

Everybody is talking about Opportunity Zones … and they should be. They can be a great opportunity (just like the name says)!

But many investors have found themselves scratching their heads. How exactly does someone take full advantage of Opportunity Zones?

Recently released guidelines are giving investors and syndicators much needed clarity for moving forward … and making the most of their Opportunity Zone investments.

We sat down with attorney Mauricio Rauld to discuss how Opportunity Zones can help investors like you defer, reduce, or even completely eliminate capital gains taxes.

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, hear from:

  • Your zoned-in host, Robert Helms
  • His zoned-out co-host, Russell Gray
  • The “Anti Lawyer” attorney, Mauricio Rauld

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Zoning in on Opportunity Zones

The wait is finally over.

The rules for investing in Opportunity Zones … and the potential tax breaks that come from it … are out.

In case you haven’t heard, Opportunity Zones are basically a capitalist version of wealth redistribution. They provide tax incentives to get rich people to voluntarily put their money where the government wants it to be.

Opportunity Zones exist in every state and in Puerto Rico. These areas tend to be blighted with some issues … they need some gentrification.

Each governor in the United States was taxed with the job of figuring out what areas in their states needed the most help … and where private enterprise could step up, do the work, and get benefits.

We’re not legal experts … but we know someone who is.

Mauricio Rauld is known around here as the “Anti Lawyer” … but he is actually a practicing lawyer who helps people primarily with syndications.

Since we first learned about Opportunity Zones last year, Mauricio has spent his time discovering the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of these types of investments.

The good side of Opportunity Zones

Let’s start with the good.

Opportunity Zones offer huge tax benefits … four in particular.

The first is that you get to defer the tax from whatever capital gains you’re investment is coming out of.

For example, if you have a piece of real estate … or any other asset, like precious metals, stocks, bonds, even your collectible car … you can take those gains and reinvest within 180 days into a qualified Opportunity Zone fund and defer the tax.

You aren’t deferring the tax indefinitely like a 1031 … but you will get to defer for at least the next seven years … until December 31, 2026.

The second benefit is that if you hold onto your new investment for a period of five years, you get a 10 percent discount on the capital gains you would have paid on the original investment.

Benefit number three kicks in if you hold onto your investment for seven years. Now, you’ll qualify for a 15 percent discount on your capital gains.

The biggest benefit of all … number four on our list … applies after holding your asset for a decade. After 10 years or more, the entire gain from your investment is tax free.

It’s all about taking an appreciated asset, putting it into an Opportunity Zone fund, and not paying taxes right away. The longer you wait … the less tax you pay.

One important thing to highlight once again is that the money you place into these Opportunity Zones doesn’t have to be in real estate to begin with.

A lot of the money we foresee coming into Opportunity Zones hasn’t historically been in real estate. They’re in other types of investments where there are big gains to be paid … like the stock market or precious metals.

As always, talk to your tax professional before making any decisions … but if you are sitting on a big tax gain, Opportunity Zones could be an attractive option.

Another positive … there is very little government interference and regulation on this project.

It’s a self-certification … meaning that whoever is putting together the fund simply checks a box on the first year tax returns to certify that it qualifies as an Opportunity Zone.

During your holding period, the government will check with you every so often to ensure you comply with program … but it won’t be dealing with the SCC or going through an approval and registration process.

The bad side of Opportunity Zones

There are some downsides … the bad … of getting into Opportunity Zones … and really it isn’t so much “bad” as it is things to consider fully before diving in.

The first is a rush for time.

In order to fully gain the benefits … to get seven years under your belt before December 31, 2026 … you need to make the investment before the end of 2019.

That means you will need to liquidate your asset and invest in a fund pretty quickly to get the 15 percent discount.

If you don’t make that deadline, you can always go for the 10 percent … and either way you should want to hold the investment for 10 years or more to make it tax free. If that’s your plan, there is less of a rush.

The other important consideration is the substantial improvement requirement.

This requirement means that if you buy a price of property you must put the same amount of money that you purchased the property for into renovations. The government wants you to improve the property.

This requirement only applies to vertical construction … meaning the buildings, not the land.

So, if you buy a property for $1 million and 20 percent of that is in the land with 80 percent in the building … then you only need to invest $800,000 in improvements.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. If you purchase a piece of property that has been vacant for the last five years … the substantial improvement requirement doesn’t apply.

Remember, the whole idea behind Opportunity Zones is for folks to put private capital to work in revitalizing these areas.

The other important requirement for your property to qualify is that it must involve an active trade or business. This is still a bit of a gray area … but we expect more guidance from the Treasury Department soon.

The ugly side of Opportunity Zones

Mauricio says that when it comes to “the ugly” of Opportunity Zones … a lot of personal opinion comes into play.

Much of the work Mauricio does is with syndicators, and there are pros and cons for them in this type of investment

Syndicators can promote Opportunity Zones as a great chance for investors because of the extensive tax benefits.

But syndicators themselves don’t get the tax benefit for the carried interest.

If this is a traditional syndication, the syndicator will get a cut for sweat equity … let’s say 20 percent.

The investors get 80 percent AND all the tax benefits … but the syndicator will have to pay taxes on the 20 percent they made. They can’t defer that.

This could be ugly … because as a passive investor you want an incentive for your syndicator who is running the project to be excited about the deal.

But on the other hand, most syndicators aren’t going after these deals for tax benefits for themselves. Instead they see them as an opportunity to court capital from a completely new and different source.

Someone who has been in the stock market or private equity or in precious metals that has avoided selling because they didn’t want to pay tax can now work with syndicators in real estate and find a win-win situation.

Another ugly truth … you can’t get into Opportunity Zones alone.

You have to put together a fund … some kind of entity. It doesn’t have to be a syndication … but it has to be a partnership. You need at least two people to get started.

Mauricio also cautions investors to be aware of artificial demand.

Opportunity Zones are designed so that people are investing in areas that they wouldn’t have originally invested in. You’ve got to make sure the investment still stands on its own merits.

Because it is an artificial demand, you could be potentially overpaying for the property in the long run. At some point you could be paying so much more that the tax benefits may not make sense.

Talk to an expert

Think Opportunity Zones might be the right opportunity for you? Talk to your tax professional.

At the end of the day, it’s a tax matter. There are forms to check and rules to follow. You want a tax expert to keep you on track.

And you’ll need an attorney to help you put together a fund, make sure it is structured properly, and ensure the investment itself is eligible.

There are no guarantees in investing … but doing your due diligence gives you the best chance at success.


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Social Security, Inflation and Real Estate …

If you’re relatively young, Social Security is probably just an abstract concept and another bite out of your paycheck.

But before you tune out,  consider that the U.S. Social Security program creates both problems and opportunities for real estate investors of ALL ages … including YOU.

Big picture …

Social Security and Medicare make up about 42% of federal program expenditures.  They’re a BIG chunk of Uncle Sam’s spending.

According to this Congressional Research Service report on Medicare and this Social Security Administration Trustees’ Report … both are headed towards insolvency in the not-too-distant future.

That’s bad.

Worse … both are “pay as you go” programs.  That’s not our description.  That’s exactly the way the U.S. government describes them.

The programs don’t really have any money.

The only “assets” these programs have are YOUR taxes … and IOUs from Uncle Sam.  The CRS report explains it on page 5.

Of course, IOUs from Uncle Sam are also backed by taxes … and the Federal Reserve’s printing press (which means inflation).

According to recommendations by the SSA Trustees in their report, the answers are … wait for it …

… raise payroll taxes and reduce benefit payments.  

Shocker.

You probably know payroll taxes are paid by working people (your tenants) and their employers.

Higher payroll tax obviously means less take-home pay to live on … including paying their rent to YOU.  So you may want to pay attention to the direction of payroll taxes.

But what about benefit reduction?  How does that matter to real estate investors?

There’s the obvious impact on tenants who rely heavily on Social Security, disability benefits or Medicare to help them with their routine living expenses.

Reduction in subsidies means those tenants have less money to pay rent … and less flexibility to absorb increases to rent or other costs of living.

But there’s a less obvious angle to consider … one we pay close attention to … and that’s the Fed’s printing press.

We trust at this stage of your financial awareness, you’ve heard of John Maynard Keynes, the father of the “Keynesian economics” you hear about.

Here’s a long, but powerful statement made by Keynes in his book The Economic Consequences of the Peace …

“Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflationgovernments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.  By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security but [also] at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth.

Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become ‘profiteers,’ who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat.  As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.

Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

There’s SO much we could say about that quote … but read it and re-read it a few times.   You’ll view the news in a whole different light.

For now, let’s get back to Social Security, inflation … and YOUR real estate investing …

As you can guess, cutting benefits overtly is not a politically popular solution.

Neither is raising taxes.

Yet according to the people in charge of these programs, that’s EXACTLY what needs to happen.

And it is happening … but “in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

That is … cutting benefits and raising taxes are both cleverly hidden inside how Uncle Sam and the Fed handle inflation.

When most people think of “inflation,” they think of Uncle Sam’s official gauge of inflation … the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

It’s well known that the Fed has a stated goal of 2% per year inflation … every year … year in and year out.

That doesn’t sound like much. And whether it’s good or bad depends on which side of the coin you’re on.

If you own real assets, you get richer in nominal terms.

If you use long-term debt, like mortgages, you get richer in real terms.

That’s too big a concept for today, but one EVERY real estate investor should know like their name.  In fact, it’s a big part of what Robert Kiyosaki will be talking about at our next Investor Summit at Sea™.

But just because you own properties doesn’t mean you’re home free (punny, we we know) because …

… for folks who don’t have assets (like your tenants) … inflation means it costs more to live.  To see it in dollar terms, use Uncle Sam’s inflation calculator.

Based on the CPI, a tenant in October 2018 would need $1,542 to purchase items that cost only $1,000 in October 1998.

That’s means they need more than a 50% increase in take-home pay over 20 years … just to keep the SAME standard of living.

Similarly, for programs like Social Security … with  built in cost of living adjustments (COLAs) … a $1000 benefit in 1998 now costs Uncle Sam $1542.

No wonder the debt is swelling.

Of course, it didn’t take Uncle Sam long to figure out keeping the CPI lower than real-world rate of inflation, would effectively cut benefits without political fallout.

In other words, as Peter Schiff often points out, the CPI probably UNDER-reports the ACTUAL rate of inflation … which means the reality is even harder for the working class than the CPI indicates.

So it’s important for investors of all types to get the best measure of real-world inflation possible.  And the CPI is arguably not it.

That’s why many investors turn to Shadow Stats or the Chapwood Index.

The Chapwood Index is handy for real estate investors because it breaks inflation down by city.  That’s important because unlike stocks, bonds, and commodities … real estate is a LOCAL investment.

Here’s where it all comes together …

Even though Uncle Sam is motivated to keep inflation LOW for CPI purposes, they have no choice but to print gobs of dollars to fund the huge and growing debt and deficit.

Meanwhile …

Income producing, leveraged real estate is arguably (and by far) the safest, most powerful hedge against long-term inflation.

But again, rental property investors must stay alert to the pressure inflation puts on their tenants.

Remember … just because nominal GDP is growing, it doesn’t mean your tenants are getting more purchasing power.

So be careful to select markets, product types, and tenant demographics that fit well into what’s happening in the big picture.

Until next time … good investing!


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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training, and resources to help real estate investors succeed.


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Opportunity Zones – Reduce Taxes by Investing in Main Street

It’s easy to figure out where tax incentives lie in wait. Just study the tax code.

The latest version of the tax code introduces a new tax shelter … opportunity zones. But … what are opportunity zones?

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, we dive into what we know about opportunity zones … including three MAJOR benefits.

You’ll hear from:

  • Your opportunistic host, Robert Helms
  • His inopportune co-host, Russell Gray

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Opportunity zones: The basics

There’s a way to pay no tax on certain investments AND heal struggling communities. We’re talking about opportunity zones.

These new geographic tax shelters are encoded in the version of the tax code passed in 2017 … but they’re not totally finalized yet.

That doesn’t mean they’re not important … savvy investors will be absorbing all the info they can BEFORE opportunity zones go into action.

The idea of opportunity zones is to offer a tax-favored investment vehicle for people who already have capital gains in other investments.

Opportunity zones will be located in low-income communities ripe for revitalization … and will be located in every state in the U.S.

The fundamental purpose of opportunity zones is to encourage long-term investments in struggling communities.

Congress has established an incentive framework that is flexible and unique. This is essentially a new class of investment.

These opportunity zones complement existing community development plans. In essence, the project is treating the U.S. like a giant rehab project.

You’ll basically be moving yourself into a pre-identified path of progress. There hasn’t been a ton of incentive for investors to come into these run-down, lower income areas. But NOW there is.

The benefits of opportunity zones

Like we said earlier, the idea of opportunity zones is set, but the legislation is not in action yet. The appropriate documentation and legislation will be in place by the end of 2018.

So NOW is your time to prepare for the future.

There are definite differences between this opportunity and other investments. Generally, you’re required to pay tax when you liquidate capital gains.

But investing in opportunity zones provides three unique tax benefits. Before we get into those, we do want to clarify … this investment is only available for investors who already have capital gains from previous investors.

But not to worry … if you’re a newer investor who doesn’t have any capital gains yet, there are ways to get in on the action. We’ll get into those in the next section.

Now, the three tax benefits …

  1. You can defer your original capital gains tax for up to 10 years. As you probably know, it’s always better to defer taxes than to pay now.
  2. You also get a 10 to 15 percent discount on your original capital gains tax.
  3. AND …when appreciated capital gains are put into an opportunity zone investment, the gains you make from that investment are completely tax free.

There is a timeline. You have to sell the appreciated assets and invest the capital gains into one or more opportunity zone investments within 180 days.

But we want to emphasize … your capital gains from properties in opportunity zone areas will be completely TAX FREE.

No capital gains? How to invest in opportunity zones

The government has a goal here … they want to bring a ton of investment capital to certain areas and swing them around.

In that vein, there is a certain requirement you have to follow to invest in opportunity zones … there is NO tax incentive if you own property in an opportunity zone under your own name.

You have to invest in opportunity zones through opportunity funds.

If you don’t have appreciated assets, you may be wondering how you can start an opportunity fund and get in on this great opportunity.

There are a few options …

  1. Invest in an area near an opportunity zone. You’ll be boosted up by the wave of capital increasing asset values all around you.
  2. Invest as a syndicator. Set up an opportunity fund … and get other investors to contribute their capital gains.

This last point is something to seriously consider … especially when you start thinking about the stock market.

The stock market is hot, but it’s showing signs of faltering. People want to take their capital gains out … but they don’t want to pay taxes.

A fantastic solution? Opportunity funds.

All about opportunity funds

What does it take to put together an opportunity fund?

Opportunity funds do not have investment limitations.

They must be organized as a corporation or a partnership.

They do not require official IRS approval … the fund manager can self-certify the fund simply by submitting a form to the IRS.

The process is designed for speed. It cuts out bureaucracy … and brings locally driven change to areas that need it.

But it also requires investors to make REAL change … for example, one requirement we expect to see is that investors put as much into rehab and construction as they spent to acquire the property.

Opportunity zones mean sending money to the bottom of the market … and making the subsequent changes LAST for the long term.

For a map of tagged and categorized opportunity zones, plus more information, simply send us an email at opportunityzones [at] realestateguysradio [dot] com.

And don’t think this is the last you’ll hear about opportunity zones … we expect this to be a BIG wave in the real estate investing sea, and we’ll be providing more information to our listeners as this new opportunity develops.


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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training, and resources to help real estate investors succeed.


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