Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Sandy, Christie and Cantor. Oh, and Joplin, Missouri.

“There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Wednesday. “The House majority and their speaker, John Boehner.”

But after a closed-door session with the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations, Boehner announced that the House would vote on the measure in two phases — first on Friday, for $9 billion in flood assistance, and then on an additional $51 billion on Jan. 15, the first full legislative day of the new Congress in the House.

The House had been expected to vote on the package Tuesday night, but GOP aides said that became increasingly difficult as the fiscal-cliff package took final shape.

They said s politically untenable after the cliff plan, with higher tax rates and no spending cutsthe specter of holding a vote on a federal aid package that included no offsetting spending cuts wa, split the Republican conference and could pass the House only with a large Democratic majority.

Christie, Republicans slam Boehner for delay on Hurricane Sandy relief measure, Nia-Malika Henderson and Ed O’Keefe, Washington Post, today

The article goes on to note that Christie exonerated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor from responsibility for this absurd fiasco.  Christie said he had spoken with Cantor several times on Tuesday and that Cantor had worked hard to gain passage of the relief measure before the close of this Congress on Wednesday night, to no avail.  But Boehner pulled the plug.  

Thus avoiding the the specter of holding a vote on a federal aid package that included no offsetting spending cuts.  And bringing Cantor’s chickens home to roost–in Boehner’s front yard.  

Oh, the irony.  Forgive me if my memory is faulty here, but I do seem to remember that it was Cantor, along with Paul Ryan (a redundancy, I think, since I’m convinced that they’re one and the same person), who back in 2011, after the tornado devastation of Joplin, Missouri and a few smaller towns in other states, tried to hold emergency financial aid hostage to an equivalent reduction of spending on social-safety-net programs–or was it the EPA, the FDA, the Agriculture Department,  the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Transportation Safety Commission, road and bridge maintenance and repair?  I forget.  

It was a great idea, and explained why these folks don’t want any action taken to prevent global warming and the more severe and frequent natural disasters that are resulting.  Bring on the destruction of the Eastern Seaboard and heartland small cities and towns, so that we can get rid of that pesky Medicare!  But it proved politically untenable then.  And it appears that Cantor, one of its chief original proponents, understands that.  A majority of the Republican House delegation apparently does not.

And, no wonder.  I mean, it’s not like they agree with Mitt Romney’s proposal–highlighted a week before the election, thanks to Sandy–to simply shut down FEMA and related federal emergency disaster relief programs.  If the states want to pick up the cost for this, fine. Let them. Or, better, the private sector can do this, for a profit!  (Got that, near-miss Romney running-mate Christie?  Got that, Rep. Peter King and the rest of you northeastern Republican pols?)  

Okay, that wasn’t the Republican House delegation’s proposal.  Not this time around, anyway.  Their proposal was simply to use natural disasters as a ploy to starve the beast in even more Republican-preferred ways.  But to their dismay, it is becoming clear that the beast about to be starved is none other than the dinosaur crowd.

And then there is this, from an article by Jonathan Weisman in today’s New York Times:

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, said the last-minute crunch that produced the tax accord was necessary only because the Senate refused to act earlier. The House passed legislation months ago to extend all the expiring Bush-era tax cuts and to stop automatic military cuts by shifting them to domestic programs.

Of course, the Senate several months ago, I believe, passed competing legislation returning tax rates for incomes above $250,000, managing to escape filibuster because it was a “reconciliation” bill, or something.  Seems to me, and undoubtedly to a spokesman for Harry Reid (not to mention Reid himself), that the last-minute crunch that produced the tax accord was necessary only because the House refused to act earlier!

A veritable hallmark of the House Republican crowd is its stunning, stupifying childishness.  These people really, really need to grow up.  For their sake, not for the Dem’s, or even for the country’s.  Happily for Dem prospects in 2014, though, they probably won’t.  And then we finally will get policy solutions to this country’s real problems.

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Tax Relief for Victims of Sandy

by Linda Beale

Tax Relief for Victims of Sandy

The IRS released several bulletins this week providing relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
IR-2012-83 extends the return filing and tax payment deadline to Feb. 1, 2013 for hurricane  victims in Connecticut (Fairfield, Middlesex, New Haven, and New London Counties; the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribal Nationa within New London County), New Jersey (Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, MIddlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, and Union) and New York (Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester).  The New Jersey relief starts with the Oct. 26 onset of the storm, while the Connecticut and New York relief start Oct. 27.  The release notes that the relief may be extended to taxpayers in other locations “based on additional damage assessments by FEMA.

The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting in late October. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until Feb. 1, 2013 to file these returns and pay any taxes due. This includes the fourth quarter individual estimated tax payment, normally due Jan. 15, 2013. It also includes payroll and excise tax returns and accompanying payments for the third and fourth quarters, normally due on Oct. 31, 2012 and Jan. 31, 2013 respectively. It also applies to tax-exempt organizations required to file Form 990 series returns with an original or extended deadline falling during this period.

Penalties and interest that would otherwise apply will not apply, and taxpayers don’t have to apply for this basic filing extension.  Failure-to-deposit penalties for deposites due when Sandy struck or later are waived if the deposits are made by Nov. 26, 2012. Details on this are available at disaster relief.  

The IRS also noted that it will work with taxpayers who don’t live in the designated areas “but whose books, records or tax professional are located in the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.”  Those taxpayers do need to contact the IRS to claim the relief.  The number to call is 866-562-5227.

IR-2012-84 alerts employers and others that qualified disaster relief payments made by an employer or other person in respect of damage from Hurricane Sandy (which has been designated a “qualified disaster”) can be excludible from taxable income and that “employer-sp9onsored private foundations may provide disaster relief to employee-victims in areas affected by the hurricane without affecting their tax-exempt status.
Qualified disaster relief payments include amounts to cover necessary personal, family, living or funeral expenses that were not covered by insurance. They also include expenses to repair or rehabilitate personal residences or repair or replace the contents to the extent that they were not covered by insurance.
IR-2012-86  expands availability of housing for victims of Hurricane Sandy by temporarily waiving the low-income housing tax credit rules that prohibit owners of low-income housing from providing housing to Sandy victims who do not qualify as low-income.

Other assistance through FEMA may be available:
Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. FEMA has also approved Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) in New York and New Jersey for eligible disaster survivors who have a continuing need for shelter because they are unable to return to their homes for an extended period of time. Individuals and business owners who sustained losses can apply for assistance from FEMA by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) via mobile device at m.fema.gov, or online at http://apps.irs.gov/app/scripts/exit.jsp?dest=http://www.disasterassistance.gov/

More information about the low-income housing credit waiver is available in Notice 2012-68.  General information (with links to these and other releases) is available at “Help for Victims of Hurricane Sandy.”

cross posted with ataxingmatter

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