Republican tax bill creates future disasters for Alaskans


Disasters are a part of life in Alaska. 

Most of them do not prompt an official declaration from the president, however. That's happened only 43 times since 1953.

Storms and floods created 34 disasters, while fires caused four, we had two disastrous earthquakes and three salmon-fishing disasters.

Remember the Sockeye fire north of Willow in 2015? It burned 55 homes, damaged many other structures and was a disaster for everyone involved.  Still, it was not a disaster that led to a presidential declaration. Under federal law, taxpayers can write off uninsured losses from such events without a presidential action.

But not much longer. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young want to end that practice, to help pay for their giant corporate tax cut. (Most of the giant cut is not paid for in their bill, as they intend to add $1.4 trillion to the deficit. The real number is higher, but it is disguised by budget gimmicks.)

To qualify for a tax deduction under the Republican tax bill, a disaster would have to be one that wins a presidential declaration.  The law requires that a disaster be declared by the president only when it is beyond the capability of the local and state governments to respond.

The Sockeye fire did not lead to a presidential declaration, as that rarely happens with wildfires. 

The New York Times explains the current law this way:  "If you’re a victim of a house fire, flood, burglary or similar event, you can generally deduct losses—as long as each loss is more than $100 and all losses collectively exceed 10 percent of your adjustable gross income."

The same rules will apply next year, but the loss has to be declared a disaster by the president. 

Lisa, Dan and Don have been quiet about this part of their disastrous bill. 

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Dermot ColeComment