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Opportunity Zones: Lawmakers agree on need for better data collection

December 09, 2021
By: Colin Edwards

While the debate over how well Opportunity Zones (OZs) have performed and whom they most benefit remains far from settled, two uniting perspectives — a commitment to continuing increased investment in impoverished and vulnerable communities, and the desire for better data collection — may encourage lawmakers to make changes to the program.

Since they were created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act through 2019, more than 6,000 Qualified Opportunity Funds have invested approximately $29 billion in the nation’s OZs, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). However, this report essentially follows the form of the previous year’s report and only officially recommends that lawmakers enable the Treasury Department to collect additional data to protect against tax fraud.

Despite academia’s efforts studying and characterizing the OZ program’s outcomes, there have been mixed results, similarly stemming from a lack of data. In November, these concerns were on display at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing as academics, the GAO, and economic development practitioners presented testimony on the OZ program. Although the debate over the Opportunity Zone program’s impact remained alive, the hearing highlighted the broad consensus that OZs present a vehicle for investing in impoverished and vulnerable communities, but that new and reliable data must be collected to improve the program.

opportunity zones