House Readies Tax Bill to Aid Storm Victims

By Richard Rubin Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.S. taxpayers affected by this year's hurricanes would get bigger-than-usual deductions for their property losses and penalty-free access to retirement accounts under a tax bill released Friday.

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The bill, from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R., Texas), could get a vote in the full House as early as next week.

The bill would apply in areas damaged by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and declared as certain kinds of disaster zones by President Donald Trump. The Joint Committee on Taxation hasn't yet released an estimate of the bill's effect on federal revenue.

"My bill specifically helps hurricane victims keep more of their paycheck, deduct more of the cost of their expensive property damage, and have more affordable and immediate access to money they have saved for their retirement," Mr. Brady said in a statement.

Normally, taxpayers trying to deduct casualty losses that haven't been reimbursed through insurance must have lost at least 10% of adjusted gross income and must itemize their deductions. The bill would eliminate both requirements, according to a committee summary.

Mr. Brady, who represents a suburban Houston district affected by Hurricane Harvey, would also create an exception for people to withdraw money from retirement plans such as 401(k)s without the 10% penalty that typically applies for people under age 59 1/2 .

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For taxpayers outside the disaster areas, the bill waives the usual limits on charitable contributions for hurricane-related donations this year. Cash donations, for example, are typically capped at 50% of adjusted gross income.

Mr. Brady's disaster tax-relief bill is attached to extensions of federal aviation and health programs.

The House, where tax bills must start, has been moving more quickly than the Senate on hurricane-related tax policy.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) is talking with committee members about what they would like to do, said his spokeswoman, Julia Lawless.

Congress often passes tax bills after disasters along with spending measures.

Write to Richard Rubin at richard.rubin@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 22, 2017 16:17 ET (20:17 GMT)