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2020-01-30 — nytimes.com

A federal tax break meant to help poor communities that became a windfall for wealthy investors is being investigated by the Treasury Department, the agency's deputy inspector general said on Wednesday.

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The legislation, part of the 2017 tax overhaul, is supposed to encourage new investment in poor neighborhoods, leading to new housing, businesses and jobs. However, wealthy investors are piling into the initiative, including developers with ties to the Trump administration.

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In October, The Times described how the financier Michael Milken stood to benefit from a move the Treasury Department made over the objections of some agency officials to permit a census tract in Nevada to qualify for the Opportunity Zone tax break. Mr. Milken is a longtime friend of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's.

"Despite these warnings from staff, Secretary Mnuchin instructed Treasury officials to allow the otherwise ineligible tract to qualify for the incentive," the lawmakers wrote in seeking the inquiry. "If the Treasury Department provided a stamp of approval as a political favor, it is not only unacceptable, but in complete violation of the congressional intent of the Opportunity Zones."

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Other potential beneficiaries of the Opportunity Zone tax break, The Times reported last year, were billionaire financiers like Leon Cooperman; Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor; Richard LeFrak, a New York real estate titan who is close to the president; and the family of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser.

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