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House GOP Tax Bill Would End Deduction for Wildfire Victims

by Countable | 12.9.17

What’s the story?

As Southern California burns, the L.A. Times noted that the "the House Republican tax bill would eliminate the deduction for personal losses from wildfires, earthquakes and other natural disasters, but keep the break for victims of the recent severe hurricanes."

Why does it matter?

By Saturday morning, the California wildfires had destroyed more than 500 structures, forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands people from their homes, and killed at least one person. Meanwhile, last month’s Northern California wildfires destroyed 8,800 structures and killed 43.

If the House GOP tax bill becomes law, it would repeal the deduction for personal casualty losses, which the IRS describes as losses from "natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes. It can also include losses from fires, accidents, thefts or vandalism."

Congress would still be able "to pass special legislation offering tax breaks for victims, as it has done in the past," the Times wrote.

While the deduction would disappear next year, it would still be available for those affected by this summer’s hurricanes and the victims of the Northern California wildfires—"as long as they can figure out their uninsured losses and include them on their 2017 tax return," the Times explained.

But California Rep. Mike Thompson, a Democrat representing Northern California, questioned the feasibility of that timetable.

"Do you really think that we’re going to be able to go in, assess all of the costs, get everything cleaned up, figure out where people are going to stand in time to do their taxes?" Thompson told colleagues on the House Ways and Means Committee. “It’s not going to happen.”

Some California officials have also criticized the decision of the committee’s chairman - Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) - to grandfather in losses from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Brady represents a district just north of Houston, which was hit hard by Harvey.

The mayor of Santa Rosa, which was decimated by the Northern California wildfires, said the bill

"smacks of political favoritism."

What do you think?

Should the GOP tax bill keep deductions for personal casualty losses? Or can taxpayers rely on Congress to pass special legislation as needed? Hit Take Action and tell your reps, then share your comments below.

—Josh Herman

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(Photo Credit: mack2happy / iStockphoto)

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