Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, along with 30 other members of Congress, has introduced a bill to provide tax relief to victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, in addition to the relief granted in recent weeks by the Internal Revenue Service.
The bill would make sure that qualifying individuals and families in the Hurricane Harvey and Irma federal disaster areas receive the maximum amount of assistance from the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit by giving them the option of using their prior-year, pre-hurricane income to calculate the credits. Congress has previously provided similar tax relief in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita, although it was not offered after Superstorm Sandy.
“Tax relief for working families is an important component of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma relief efforts,” Doggett, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Tax Policy Subcommittee, said in a statement Thursday. “This bill represents a modest measure to help those who have already suffered a natural disaster from also incurring an economic disaster.”
He compared the legislation to the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. “Each year the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit help lift millions of the working poor out of poverty,” said Doggett. “In many communities, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program begins assisting workers in January in filing for this refundable tax credit. Just as volunteers have been so vital recently in rescuing and assisting victims, future VITA volunteers will be essential in providing assistance in securing the benefits of this legislation. The hurricanes have interrupted jobs and wages for many, particularly in service industries. Reduced earnings this year caused by the disaster would otherwise lower assistance to hard-working families when it is needed the most. We cannot allow devastation to extend further into the pocketbooks of already struggling communities.”
Doggett’s office provided an example of how the tax relief might work for an average family: “Mary is a single mother to two kids and works as a cashier at a local restaurant. She earns $15,000 a year and received $5,572 from the Earned Income Tax and Child Tax Credits in 2016. Following Hurricane Harvey or Irma, Mary’s restaurant was destroyed and she was unemployed for the rest of 2017. Mary’s 2017 income was reduced to $10,000 a year and she would qualify for $4,010 from the Earned Income Tax and Child Tax Credits. Mary’s total tax credit benefit was reduced by $1,562 in 2017. Under this bill, Mary could use her 2016 income to maximize her tax credit benefit and receive the amount she anticipated before the hurricane.”
The IRS has also provided extended tax filing and penalty deadlines, along with other forms of tax relief, including for loans and hardship distributions for 401(k) plans, for victims of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Visit www.irs.gov/hurricaneharvey and www.irs.gov/hurricaneirma for more information.
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