The State of North Carolina

North Carolina Opportunity Zones Program

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Program Overview

H.R. 1 (the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act), signed into law on December 22, 2017, created a new tool for community and economic development, designed to provide tax incentives to help unlock new capital sources to fund new investments in underserved low-income communities.

The Opportunity Zones Program (Sec. 13823) provides tax incentives for qualified investors to re-invest unrealized capital gains into low-income communities throughout the state, and across the country. Per legislation, each state is authorized to designate up to 25 percent of its total low-income census tracts as qualified Opportunity Zones. Low-income census tracks are areas where the poverty rate is 20 percent or greater and/or family income is less than 80% of the area's median income.

Qualified investments made by Opportunity Funds into Opportunity Zones will receive three key federal tax incentives to encourage investment in low-income communities including:

Temporary tax deferral for capital gains reinvested in an Opportunity Fund
Step-up in basis for capital gains reinvested in an Opportunity Fund
Permanent exclusion from taxable income of long-term capital gains

For additional information on the treatment of capital gains invested and earned through the Opportunity Zones program, please see the Economic Innovation Group summary

North Carolina's Opportunity Zones

North Carolina has just over 1,000 qualifying low-income census tracts, and accordingly, is authorized to designate up to 251 census tracts as Opportunity Zones. The map and downloadable chart below provides a summary of the qualified low-income census tracts eligible for Opportunity Zone designation.

Click the Layer List icon Layers List icon in the top right-hand corner of the map below and check "Contiguous Census Tracts" to view potentially eligible contiguous tracts.

Eligible census tracts are determined by the same poverty and income criteria that determine eligibility for New Markets Tax Credits – as defined by Internal Revenue Code Section 45D(e). Opportunity Zone eligibility is based on 2011-2015 Census American Community Survey data with a given census tract having either (1) Median Family Income at or below 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) in the period of 2011-2015 or (2) Poverty Rate of 20% or greater in the period of 2011-2015.

Up to 5% of census tracts that do not meet the definition of a low-income community can be designated under a Contiguous Census Tract exemption. Exempt tracts must be contiguous with low-income community census tracts that are designated as Opportunity Zones, and the median family income of the exempt tract must not exceed 125% of the median family income of the designated low-income community census tract with which it is contiguous.

Download Eligible Low-Income NC Census Tracts Download in Microsoft Excel XLSX format

Program Information

Designation of Opportunity Funds

The U.S. Department of the Treasury is still in the process of developing criteria to determine how qualified Opportunity Funds will be certified, and the process they will follow to certify those funds. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has not released a timeline for when capital may begin to flow, but earliest estimates point to late 2018 or early 2019.


The Opportunity Zones program is based on the bipartisan "Investing in Opportunity Act," which was championed by Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representatives Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and Ron Kind (D-WI), who led a regionally and politically diverse coalition of nearly 100 congressional cosponsors. The Economic Innovation Group (EIG) originally developed the Concept of Opportunity Zones in 2015.

Opportunity Zones Program and related Legislation

For more information and program updates, please contact Business Link North Carolina (BLNC) at (800) 228-8443

Important Dates

  • February 13, 2018 - Public notice regarding Opportunity Zones is released
  • March 27, 2018 - Suggestion period close * extended *
  • April 20, 2018 - Formal recommendations to US Treasury

Next Steps and Making Recommendations

The NC Opportunity Zones Program will be designed encourage job creation, economic activity, housing and other community investments throughout North Carolina. NC Commerce welcomes all ideas for how we can maximize investments in North Carolina to the benefit of underserved communities throughout the state. All businesses, community organizations, investors, and citizens are encouraged to weigh in.

If you're interested in providing suggestions for the development of the qualified Opportunity Zones program or designation of specific census tracts, please submit comments below by March 27, 2018.


All comments and correspondence to and from NC Commerce, including contact information, is subject to North Carolina Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has not completed its rule making on the Opportunity Zone program. NC Commerce is currently gathering feedback for qualifying census zone tracts to be designated an Opportunity Zone. Selection criteria will be determined upon publication of the U.S. Department of the Treasury rules. All communications, maps, documents and applications related to the Opportunity Zones Program and provided by NC Commerce are for planning purposes only and may be subject to change based upon the U.S. Department of the Treasury's final rule.

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