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Mapp Nominates 14 Virgin Islands Communities For Special Federal Tax Breaks Under IRS

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CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Gov. Kenneth Mapp has nominated 14 neighborhoods on St. Thomas and St. Croix as Qualified Opportunity Zones eligible for U.S. tax breaks under the massive tax bill passed by Congress last December, Government House announced today.

The nominated zones, which are considered 14 “low income census tracts”, are subject to the approval of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. As part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Congress created a new incentive to encourage investment in low-income communities by allowing investors who reinvest the proceeds of capital gains in qualifying property or businesses located in designated Opportunity Zones to defer and reduce their capital gains taxes.

Under the new tax law, U.S. investors who invest in qualified property in an Opportunity Zone may defer U.S. capital gains tax on the new investment for up to 7 years; reduce the amount of those capital gains by as much as 15 percent; and pay zero federal capital gains tax on any appreciation in value of that new investment.

“These new federal tax incentives will strengthen and complement the incentives available to companies and individuals under our Economic Development Commission (“EDC”) program,” Mapp said. “I am hopeful that these new federal tax incentives can attract new investments in hotel development, retail businesses, and industry in our most underserved communities. They will also be a valuable incentive for businesses looking to rebuild after the hurricanes,” Mapp said.

By statute, Qualified Opportunity Zones are limited to designated “low-income communities” in States and Territories which meet certain criteria. The zones nominated by Governor Mapp include Christiansted and all of the western end of St. Croix, as well as most of the southern half of St. Thomas.

Mapp also commended Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) for his leadership in developing the Opportunity Zone legislation and spearheading it through the Congressional process. The original proposal did not include the Virgin Islands or other U.S. Territories. After meeting with Governor Mapp last summer, Senator Scott agreed to expand the scope of eligible zones to include low income communities in the territories.

The following example illustrates how the Qualified Opportunity Zone incentive works:
Designation of a tract as a QOZ is designed to encourage investment in the tract by permitting investors to defer and reduce the recognition of capital gain proceeds from other transactions. Consider a U.S. company that invested $10 million in a stock and sells that stock in 2018 for $20 million. Ordinarily, the $10 million gain would be subject to federal capital gains tax in 2018. If, however, within 180 days of selling the stock the company invests the $20 million in a QOZ, it obtains three significant benefits.

  • First, it defers payment of federal capital gains tax on the $10 million gain until the earlier of the date it sells its investment in the QOZ or December 31, 2026.
  • Second, it receives a 10 percent reduction in federal capital gains tax if it holds the QOZ investment for at least five years, and an additional 5 percent reduction if it holds the investment for at least seven years.
  • Third, it avoids federal capital gains tax altogether on any further appreciation in its investment in the QOZ.

That is, if the company ultimately sells its investment in the QOZ for $35 million after seven years—a gain of $25 million—it will defer capital gains tax on the original $10 million gain until the date of the sale; reduce the amount of that capital gain by 15 percent; and pay no capital gains tax at all on the $15 million appreciated gain.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 50 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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