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 ScottAuthor Ryan Girdusky: RNC worked best when highlighting 'regular people' as opposed to 'standard Republicans' Now is the time to renew our focus on students and their futures GOP lobbyists pleasantly surprised by Republican convention 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 TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act 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 GrassleyGOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power The Hill's 12:30 Report: Ginsburg lies in repose Top GOP senators say Hunter Biden's work 'cast a shadow' over Obama Ukraine policy MORE (R-Iowa) and Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power McConnell pushes back on Trump: 'There will be an orderly transition' MORE (R-Fla.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoCongress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out Second GOP senator to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus GOP senator to quarantine after coronavirus exposure MORE (R-W.Va.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenate GOP eyes early exit Why the US should rely more on strategy, not sanctions Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE (R-Ind.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstOn The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami Tillis appears to reinforce question about COVID-19 death toll The power of incumbency: How Trump is using the Oval Office to win reelection MORE (R-Iowa), Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyCoushatta tribe begins long road to recovery after Hurricane Laura Senators offer disaster tax relief bill Bottom line MORE (R-La.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBreaking the Chinese space addiction Trump dumbfounds GOP with latest unforced error Billionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden 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.