GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements

GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements
© Greg Nash

A group of GOP senators on Friday rolled out a new bill to expand reporting requirements about investments in "opportunity zones" as the program aimed at revitalizing economically distressed communities has faces mounting scrutiny, particularly from Democrats.

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president Democrats worry Trump team will cherry-pick withheld documents during defense What to watch for on day 4 of the Senate impeachment trial MORE (R-S.C.), the lead sponsor of the bill, said in a news release that the measure's "reporting requirements will help show communities and investors that the initiative is working, as well as help root out any fraud or abuse."

"This is an important piece of the puzzle to help the more than 31 million Americans living in Opportunity Zones experience a brighter future,” Scott added.

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The opportunity zones program, established under President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE's 2017 tax-cut law, allows investors to receive capital gains tax breaks for investments in designated economically-distressed communities. The provision in the 2017 tax law was based on bipartisan legislation, and there remains some bipartisan support for the program's goals.

In recent weeks, however, Democrats have expressed increasing concern about the program, after several reports that wealthy developers were influencing and benefiting from the program.

Some Democratic lawmakers have asked federal watchdogs to probe the implementation of the opportunity-zone provision. Democrats have also offered bills to make substantive changes to opportunity zones and even to repeal the program.

Scott, an author of the initial legislation that proposed opportunity zones several years ago, has taken issue with Democratic legislation to make substantial changes to the program, arguing that those bills would decrease the program's effectiveness. But he and other Republicans have been supportive of boosting reporting requirements for the program so that the public can see the impact of investments in opportunity zones.

The initial standalone legislation on opportunity zones included reporting requirements, but those requirements were not included in the GOP tax law because of the budget rules that the Senate used to pass the law. Scott also introduced a bipartisan bill on reporting requirements earlier this year, and the bill he offered this week would establish more expansive reporting requirements.

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Scott's latest bill would codify requirements for investors and funds to report information about investments made in opportunity zones and adds penalties for individuals and funds that fail to appropriately file required forms. It also would require the Treasury Department to make information about investments in opportunity zones public and would require the Treasury to work with other agencies to issue reports about new businesses, household income and housing in opportunity zones and to compare that data with data about low-income areas that weren't designated opportunity zones.

Co-sponsors of Scott's new bill include Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTax season could bring more refund confusion Graham vows Biden, Ukraine probe after impeachment trial Social security emerges as latest flash point in Biden-Sanders tussle MORE (R-Iowa) and Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFormer senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses 'The worst news': Political world mourns loss of Kobe Bryant Des Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee MORE (R-Fla.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoDemocrat Richard Ojeda announces Senate bid after dropping out of presidential race Spending bill to address miners' health care, pensions Manchin warns he'll slow-walk government funding bill until he gets deal on miners legislation MORE (R-W.Va.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungRestlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on Impeachment trial forces senators to scrap fundraisers Iran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner MORE (R-Ind.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGOP Iowa senator suggests Trump impeachment defense could hurt Biden at caucuses Republicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap Progressive group targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment witnesses MORE (R-Iowa), Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidySenators opt to drink milk on Senate floor during impeachment trial Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat Trump trade deal faces uncertain Senate timeline MORE (R-La.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerOvernight Energy: Sanders scores highest on green group's voter guide | Trump's latest wins for farmers may not undo trade damage | Amazon employees defy company to speak on climate change Progressive group targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment witnesses Ad campaign pressures Gardner on Arctic National Wildlife Refuge bill MORE (R-Colo.).

"This legislation will help make sure the federal government has the information it needs to track the success of Opportunity Zones,” Grassley said.