Congress’ inaction places cap on Hurricane Ian damage claims

Reporter: Andryanna Sheppard
Published: Updated:

Bad news for nearly everyone whose home or business was damaged in Hurricane Ian: Congress failed to designate Ian as a “qualified disaster.” No matter what kind of loss you suffered, there is a hard cap on what you can claim on your 2022 taxes.

“People are going to lose tens of thousands of dollars of losses, and these are not just the people on Sanibel Island, the people on Captiva Island… this is going to be the majority of people in Lee County,” said Adam Davis, a certified public accountant.

“It’s a mess,” said Jerry Hemmer, Alliance Financial Group’s president, and CEO. “And I think people need to really pay attention to it, and hopefully, now we’ll get the word out.”

The word is that Congress failed to provide income tax relief to Hurricane Ian victims, which will have financial consequences for people throughout Southwest Florida.

“It just didn’t happen, and all those qualified disaster loss provisions sunsetted,” Hemmer said. “People were just under the assumption that because it was a federally declared disaster, that it naturally would have been given that ability to deduct those losses.”

Hemmer’s position as the head of Alliance Financial Group means it’s his job to explain how this happened.

“A lot of our clients have had losses, and those losses extend throughout all of Florida due to Hurricane Ian… [they] were under the assumption that they could declare those losses as a qualified disaster loss, and therefore deducted them on their taxes,” Hemmer said.

Since Congress has yet to designate Ian as a qualified disaster, the IRS cannot accept losses from Ian on anyone’s 2022 tax returns.

As a CPA, Adam Davis spotted the problem on Form 4684.

“It is a very, very big deal,” Davis said. “I thought it was a mistake. Or maybe it was waiting for other legislation or maybe some sort of supplement to that material. And we quickly realized that’s the case: This is not happening.”

WINK News contacted the IRS to learn more about why Ian wasn’t designated a “qualified disaster.”

“More recent disasters, including a number of them like Ian that were quite severe, are not covered because the law has not been changed or modified to make that possible,” said Eric Smith, an IRS spokesperson.

If you want to see some benefit, “List your various deductions rather than claiming a standard amount,” said Smith.

Most Americans take the standard deduction. Let’s say you’re married, filing jointly, and combined; you bring home $100,000. Your standard deduction is $25,900, meaning you pay taxes on $74,100 of your household income. It is even higher if you’re over 65 years old.

Since Hurricane Ian is not on that qualified disaster losses list, the IRS is placing certain limitations on your Ian losses.

“Everybody, or individuals, to get a loss, an individual taxpayer needs to itemize their deductions,” Smith said.

That means your losses would have to be greater than $25,900, and you can only take losses of more than 10% of your income. That’s a significant threshold to cross to see any tax savings.

A family with a $10,000 loss would have zero tax savings. As losses grow, you could lose more money too. If Ian were a qualified disaster loss, they’d have $1,140 worth of tax savings.

“Key thing to keep in mind is that this is a deduction and not a tax credit,” said Smith. “Is it worthwhile for you to itemize your deductions? Well, that’s also going to depend on your particular situation.”

Taxes are already confusing, and the IRS knows Congress’s lack of qualified disaster designation worsens matters. Their advice is not to guess and consult a tax professional.

The only way to fix this is for Congress to act. Our lawmakers in Washington can still designate Hurricane Ian as a qualified disaster and allow storm victims to claim their deductibles retroactively, but not easily, and certainly not by tax day.

“I’ve talked with Senator [Rick] Scott. What we’re going to do is we’re going to get the language done this year, so we can get this reauthorized,” said Congressman Byron Donalds.

Because of how Congress works, the House and Senate don’t discuss appropriations until September.

“Unfortunately, what it’s going to look like, as for the following year, they’ll be able to retroactively take advantage of those tax, those tax breaks, because of the damage they went through with Hurricane Ian,” Donalds said.

Congressman Greg Stuebe agrees with Donalds. In a statement, he said,”I certainly support designating Hurricane Ian as a Qualified Casualty Loss event, and I’m actively having conversations about a path forward in Congress. Through no fault of their own, Floridians are now on an expensive road to recovery. We must provide relief where we can so that Floridians can fully recover from this storm and adequately prepare for the next.”

WINK News reached out to Senator Marco Rubio, but he did not get back to us. Neither did anyone from his office.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.