Taxpayers who make donations for Haitian earthquake victims would be able to write off this charitable deduction when they file their 2009 taxes this spring, under a bill passed by the House Wednesday.
Under current law, donors would have to wait until they file their 2010 returns next year to take the deductions. But the newly advanced bill would allow donations made by the end of February to be deducted from 2009 returns.
The bill passed on a voice vote with no opposition. Quick Senate action is expected. A similar law was enacted in 2005 for donations to victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami that happened in December 2004.
"It's a simple gesture but it will encourage giving in this challenging economy," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.
Last week's quake killed an estimated 200,000 people in Haiti, left 250,000 injured and made 1.5 million homeless, according to the European Union Commission. A powerful aftershock caused even more damage Wednesday.
"The bottom line is they need cash, they need checks," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
The American Red Cross had raised a total of $127 million as of Tuesday evening, spokesman Roger Lowe said. Of that amount, about $24 million had come from people making $10 donations by texting the word "Haiti" to the number 90999 from their mobile phones, Lowe said.
"The Red Cross wholeheartedly supports Congress' efforts to aid charitable giving during this time of unprecedented need for Haiti," the American Red Cross said in a statement. "The outpouring of support from the American public is making it into the hands of the Haitian people, and this legislation will help us provide even more help and hope to survivors."
Lowe said donations will help short-term relief efforts as well as long-term reconstruction projects.
The bill is also sponsored by the top Democrat and Republican on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, improving its likelihood of passing.
"When crisis calls, American citizens are at their finest," said Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House Republican whip. "The people of the U.S. have always been and continue to be a generous and giving people."