Americans who make donations for Haitian earthquake victims would be able to write off charitable deductions when they file their 2009 taxes this spring, under a bill scheduled for a House vote Wednesday.
Once the House passes the bill, the Senate is expected to act quickly as well.
Under current law, donors would have to wait until they file their 2010 returns next year to take the deductions. The bill would allow donations made by the end of February to be deducted from 2009 returns.
A similar law was enacted in 2005 for donations to victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami that happened in December 2004.
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 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 American people have been generous already," Lowe said. "We're deeply appreciative of that, and we're also extremely grateful that Congress is taking this step."
Lowe said donations will help short-term relief efforts as well as long-term reconstruction projects.
Lawmakers hope to encourage more donations by speeding up the tax benefits, said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the top Republican on the committee, said, "To the extent that we can encourage additional giving sooner, by making these donations tax deductible, it is the right thing to do."
The bill is also sponsored by the top Democrat and Republican on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, improving its likelihood of passing.
On the Net:
American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org
White House relief site: http://www.whitehouse.gov/HaitiEarthquake
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