A Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) is an investment vehicle which is organized as a corporation or a partnership for the purpose of investing in qualified opportunity zone property acquired after December 31, 2017. The QOF must hold at least 90% of its assets in qualified opportunity zone (QOZ) property but a taxpayer may not invest directly in QOZ property.
Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZ) are population census tracts that are generally in low-income communities and that were specifically designated as QOZs after being nominated by the governor of the state or territory in which the community is located and approved by the Treasury Secretary, who then certified the community as a QOZ. The purpose of a QOZ is to spur economic growth and job creation in low-income communities while providing tax benefits to investors.
Starting back in 2018, a taxpayer who had a capital gain on the sale or exchange of any property to an unrelated party could elect to defer, and potentially partially exclude, the gain from gross income if the gain was reinvested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) within 180 days of the sale or exchange. Unlike Sec 1031 deferrals (tax deferred exchanges), only the amount of the gain, not the amount of the proceeds of the sale, needed to be reinvested to defer the gain.
As an incentive to invest in Qualified Opportunity Funds, the basis of the QOF investment was increased by 10% of the deferred gain if the taxpayer retained the QOF investment for 5 years. That was increased to 15% if the QOF was retained for 7 years. In other words, if the investment was held for at least 5 years, 10% of the original gain is excluded, or if held for 7 years, 15% of the original gain is excluded.
However, any gain deferred into a QOF becomes taxable the earlier of when the QOF investment is sold or December 31, 2026. Thus, if an individual invests in a QOF in 2023, that only leaves 4 years before the deferred gain becomes taxable at the end of 2026. This means an investor just now investing in a QOF doesn’t have enough time to hold the investment for the required 5 or 7 years to benefit from the 10% or 15% step-up on a basis when the deferral has to be reported on the 2026 return. However, the gain deferral is still available and is not taxable until the 2026 return is filed.
As illustrated nearby, to meet the 7-year holding requirement the QOF must have been purchased before 1/1/2020 and prior to 1/1/2022 to meet the 5-year holding period.
One benefit remains. If the QOF is held for 10 years or longer before it is sold, the taxpayer can elect to increase the basis to the fair market value amount. The effect of this adjustment is that none of the appreciation since the QOF was purchased is taxable when it is sold. This provision applies only to the investment in the QOF that was made with deferred capital gains.
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