Thousands of Florida and Georgia residents are preparing for Hurricane Irma. At publication time, the category four hurricane is expected to cause widespread damage in both states.
In IR 2017-145, the Service offered tips for September's National Preparedness Month. The IRS and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urge all Americans to be prepared for disasters and potential emergency situations.
The IRS and FEMA suggest several types of preparation.
- Electronic Copies You should make copies of your bank statements, tax returns, financial account records and insurance policy declaration pages. These should be stored in a waterproof container. Many banks and financial companies provide online PDFs of your statements. You may download the PDFs and store them on a USB flash drive, CD or DVD.
- Document Valuables Create a record by taking photos of all of your collections, art or other valuables. IRS Publication 584 provides specific steps that will help you in making a room-by-room record of your valuable items.
- Update Emergency Plan There are two typical emergency plan categories. You will either "stay in place" or "move to safety." If you stay in place, you should have adequate supplies of food, water and batteries. In a severe storm, you may lose your internet connection and even cell phone capability for a period of time. If you choose to move to safety, it is best to plan your route, the appropriate time to move (before the roads become clogged with cars) and your safe location.
The IRS is available to help whenever there is a federally-declared disaster. If you need copies of any prior tax returns, file IRS Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. You can also call the IRS at 866-562-5227 to discuss disaster-related questions.
Harvey Relief and Debt Limit Bill Passes
On September 8, 2017, the House voted 316 to 90 to pass a bill with $7.85 billion in Hurricane Harvey disaster relief. The bill includes $7.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund. There also is $450 million for the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program.
The Senate previously passed the bill 83 to 17. The bipartisan vote in both House and Senate resulted from an agreement between President Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
The compromise also included a continuing resolution that allows the government to operate until December 15 and a debt limit extension.
Both Senate leaders approved the compromise. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated, "We have had many discussions about how to go forward. We have this emergency created by Harvey and Irma, which must be addressed this week. We have the debt ceiling expiring because there is more borrowing the Secretary of Treasury needs to do than the current debt ceiling allows him. If this isn't the definition of an emergency, I don't know what is."
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer noted, "This is a really positive step forward. It will work to quickly provide aid to those hurt by Harvey, it will avoid default, and it will fund the government, avoiding a shutdown. And we all agreed we would work together in December as well to avoid a default."
It is significant that White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short commented that the compromise enables Congress to "clear the decks in September" and focus on tax reform. The White House may have decided to compromise on the budget negotiations in order to pass tax reform by December 15. It will be an interesting December in Congress. Several Members predict they will be in session until December 24.
IRS Approves Harvey Leave-Donation Programs
In Notice 2017-48, 2017-39 IRB 1, the Service approved company leave donation programs to benefit victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Many companies offer employees vacation, sick and personal leave days. Some employees have "banked" a substantial number of these days. Notice 2017-48 outlines procedures for employees to forego these days and for their employers to give the value of donated days as cash gifts to qualified nonprofits.
The employee must notify an employer about the number of sick, vacation or personal leave days he or she will donate. The employee receives no taxable income and also cannot report a charitable deduction.
The employer must make a cash gift before January 1, 2019 to a Sec. 170(c) organization engaging in relief services to victims of Hurricane Harvey or Tropical Storm Harvey.
The employer payments will be deductible as either Sec. 170 charitable contributions or Sec. 162 ordinary and necessary business expenses.
Applicable Federal Rate of 2.4% for September -- Rev. Rul. 2017-17; 2017-36 IRB 1 (18 Aug 2017)
The IRS has announced the Applicable Federal Rate (AFR) for September of 2017. The AFR under Section 7520 for the month of September will be 2.4%. The rates for August of 2.4% or July of 2.2% also may be used. The highest AFR is beneficial for charitable deductions of remainder interests. The lowest AFR is best for lead trusts and life estate reserved agreements. With a gift annuity, if the annuitant desires greater tax-free payments the lowest AFR is preferable. During 2017, pooled income funds in existence less than three tax years must use a 1.2% deemed rate of return.