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Economics in Brief: Treasury Releases Opportunity Zone Regulations

And in other economics stories this week, insurers sign on to a bill to eliminate anonymous LLCs, and a bill that would have legalized predatory lending in Indiana has failed.

A map showing designated Opportunity Zones (shaded in dark blue) in and around Philadelphia. (Credit: Policy Map)

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Treasury Releases Opportunity Zone Regs

The U.S. Treasury has released a second round of guidance on the Opportunity Zones program, clarifying how investors can take advantage of the program, the New York Times reports.

The program, in which investors can defer or eliminate taxes on capital gains if the money is invested in Opportunity Zones, has drawn criticism from those who say that the program will enrich already wealthy people at the expense of poor communities. (The St. Paul Pioneer Press called the program a “federally authorized tax shelter.”)

The new rules clarify some of the ways investors can take advantage of the tax break, making it easier for money to fund job-creating businesses, rather than just real estate, the Times reported.

Insurers Endorse Ending Shell Companies

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a group of insurers, government groups and consumer watchdog groups, has endorsed a bill in Congress designed to eliminate anonymous LLCs by requiring that LLCs and corporations disclose their owners.

Disclosure should make it harder for criminals to launder money and perpetuate fraud, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) said in a statement when she introduced the bill in the last session of Congress. And in real estate, as senior economics correspondent Oscar Perry Abello wrote in 2017, such disclosure would make it harder for landlords to let a building become run down, then move onto the next.

Bill to Legalize Predatory Lending in Indiana Fails on House Floor

A bill that would have allowed lenders to charge interest rates that the state currently classifies as a felony was not called for a vote Monday, rendering it effectively dead, the Indy Star reports.

The state currently defines an annual interest rate of 72 percent or higher as felony loan sharking, the Star wrote. But payday loan shops had been lobbying for rates as high as 167 percent, saying that it would provide consumers with more borrowing options.

Rep. Matt Lehman (R-Berne), told the Star that this latest attempt was probably the end for the bill.

“By this bill not moving,” he said, “we have pretty much condemned people in Indiana to (shorter-term, higher-interest forms of) payday lending or online. There are not other options for them.”

But consumer advocacy groups, churches, and charities cheered the failing of the bill.

Said Erin Macey, senior policy analyst at Indiana Institute for Working Families: “It’s hard to believe that a bill this terrible could even get this far.”

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter.

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