Finance

Treasury watchdog to investigate Trump opportunity zone program

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The Treasury Department’s internal watchdog is planning to investigate the “opportunity zones” program after three Democratic lawmakers called for a closer look at the initiative, acting Treasury Inspector General Richard Delmar told NBC News

Delmar’s announcement came a few months after Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) sent him a letter requesting an investigation after news reports indicated that friends of the administration were benefiting from the program. The acting inspector general told NBC News that the report is expected to be completed by early spring. 

The opportunity zone program was enacted with President Trump’s tax bill in 2017 and was designed to give tax incentives to those who invest in designated lower income areas. 

But The New York Times reported last year that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the department to grant Storey County, Nevada, an opportunity zone status, a decision that came after he spent time with the co-owner of a company in that county.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also sent a letter to Mnuchin in November asking for more information on why that county was selected after the department had previously decided it was ineligible. 

The Treasury Department has pushed back on the story, saying officials only reconsidered the opportunity zone designation for the county at the request of local officials and that Mnuchin did not know of the investments in the county.

Other Democrats sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking the office to look into a number of aspects of the program, including analysis on how the opportunity zones were decided.

The department and the IRS also released a draft form to gather information about investments made under the program as they faced scrutiny in October. NBC reported that as of January, $7 billion in investments were made in the program, according to data collected by accounting firm Novogradac.

The department did not immediately return a request for comment.

Tags Cory Booker Donald Trump Inspector General IRS Opportunity zone Richard Neal Ron Kind Ron Wyden Steven Mnuchin Treasury Department

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