Opportunity Zone Tax Status Available for Low-Income Communities in Washington

Washington state communities may now apply to be designated as Opportunity Zones so they can offer tax incentives for economic development.

The deadline to apply if 5 p.m. PDT on March 26, according to the Washington State Department of Commerce. 

The Opportunity Zone program included in the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs act signed into law by President Trump on Dec. 22, 2017, allows the governor of every state to designate up to 25 percent of eligible census tracts as Opportunity Zones.

Investments made through special funds in these zones will be able to defer or eliminate federal taxes on capital gains.

To qualify for Opportunity Zone status, a census tract must have an individual poverty rate of at least 20 percent and median family income up to 80 percent of the area median.

There are 555 census tracts eligible for this designation in Washington state, so 139 (25 percent) may be designated as Opportunity Zones. View the U.S. Treasury Department list of eligible tracts

Commerce worked with a diverse group of stakeholders to develop a procedure for nominating tracts in Washington state.

According to Commerce Director Brian Bonlender, goals for developing the process included:

  • Transparent process

  • Create a process that helps strengthen communities

  • Create ability for tribes to directly access some portion of the available census tracts.

  • Create ability for each county, in conjunction with the applicable Associate Development Organization (ADO), to access some portion of the available census tracts.

  • Create a competitive portion of tracts that will be awarded to the areas that most likely result in new investment and job creation.

Federally recognized tribes, counties, cities, towns, ports, housing authorities and associate development organizations may now nominate tracts for Opportunity Zone designation.