Not a lot was done right after Hurricane Katrina but Congress did step in with some disaster relief that include tax breaks for victims and tax incentives for those to give to charities assisting victims. Congress passed similar legislation for victims of other disaster areas, including those who suffered through catastrophic hurricanes and tornados.

Why re-invent the wheel? Today, lawmakers from five Midwestern states introduced a similar measure in Congress to aid victims of the recent violent storms and flooding.

If the plan passes, it would allow disaster victims take money out of retirement plans without paying a tax penalty – the money would presumably be used for home repairs and other necessities not covered by FEMA. The bill would also give tax breaks to businesses that suffered losses and, most significantly in an era of “charity burnout” encourage more taxpayers to make donations to charities.

As written, the plan would apply to those areas declared federal disaster areas in the midwest and in the south. This includes areas in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

The IRS had already granted disaster relief for taxpayers in affected areas of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, West Virginia and Wisconsin for the most recent storms. Earlier this spring, the IRS extended similar relief to storm victims in parts of Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma.

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Kelly Phillips Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer, and podcaster.


  1. Maybe I’m being a cranky old geography geek, but when you build on a flood plain, you get flooded. The people who live there know that, and they admit they know that — but they live there anyway. Them’s the chances you take. I can see giving them a one-time tax break, but the government should not encourage living on a flood plain — any more than it should encourage living on sand dunes on Cape Cod or hurricane-prone coastlines in Florida. When the private sector starts to say, “Sorry, this is costing us too much money — we won’t insure you against hurricanes anymore” (which, by the way, is not due to any climate change — it’s due to overbuilding in coastal areas), there’s a lesson there. But as usual, we don’t learn it.


  2. I happen to be one of “them” who got flooded in the recent Midwest floods of June 2008.

    Where I live is considered a “flood plain” but the closest body of water to me is over 7 miles away.

    Flash flooding can flood anyone, anywhere and at any time. I’m thankful my own lawmakers worked to have my area recognized as a flood plain – if not, we’d have had to settle for the best insurance coverage we could get that does NOT cover surface water flooding.

    Because we were recognized as a flood plain, we were blessed enough to receive $4000 from FEMA which helped cover the furnace, water heater and air conditioning we lost as the result of flooding.

    Old timers who live close said they’d not seen flooding like this in over 30 years.

    Just because a place is considered a flood plain does not mean they live in a bowl on the banks of a porous levy. It means someone in your area who was elected to a position to protect you and act on your behalf did their job.

    Granted, I don’t exactly agree with building back NOLA in the bowl – because, to me, that’s building in an ultra high risk zone, but there are obviously a great many places that are affected by flooding that you’d never suspect.

    I for one appreciate the security net.

  3. Gayla,

    OK, I apologize for shooting from the hip. But just for the sake of discussion, let’s say there were no federal flood insurance. Knowing that in a low-lying area, you’re going to get flooded periodically, would you still live where you do, or would you go to higher ground? Having just been flooded in June, did that change your thinking at all?

    I live on a hill, so floods aren’t a problem — but we do get hurricanes here in Rhode Island from time to time. That goes with the territory. You deal with it by not living right on the coast, building housing that can stand up to wind, etc. When something unusual happens, well, that’s unexpected. But floods are NOT unexpected — by definition, they’re going to happen periodically, with a frequency that is usually pretty well known — e.g., you’ve got 50-year floods, 100-year floods, 500-year floods, etc. If a flood happens once every 30 years, that’s farmland — not suitable for residential use.


  4. It did change my thought process some – in that I’ve taken precaution to make sure I don’t experience the same damages again.

    Our furnace is now mounted to the ceiling rather than on the floor. Our air conditioning unit was moved to a higher ground area that was within a small portion of our property that did not flood. Our water softener is now setting higher.

    We’ve got a company comping to install the latest and greatest in drainage systems to help detour the water out and away from the house.

    We do have people that live in the county and on the banks of a river. Every time it rains they flood – but their house was purposely built to withstand the flooding.

    I think there’s a big difference in preparing for ‘normal flooding’ and those that can be called “acts of God” or “natural disasters” – now with that in mind, I also live in an area called Tornado Alley – If we’re going on the same premise, does that mean people should not build or live here? For the sake of discussion of course 🙂

    I love a good debate 😉

  5. Unfortunately, I sold a property (on a flood plain) to a close friend. I inherited it from my sister, and I wanted to give this friend a wonderful place to live.

    AND THEN (of course) it flooded, and I got to see my friend getting into a boat off the second floor of her condo.

    We’re still working things out with FEMA, and my friend and I are still friends . . . goes to the strength of our frienship. But, she says, and I say, “Don’t build on a floodplain.”


  6. Gayla,

    During the flood that hit the condos, I was really high on my own bank. But we had a foot of water in the yards (I know, because I waded through it, and my little village was flooded with water. It wasn’t until the next day that I found out that the Grand River (really a misnomer) went over it’s banks and flooded everything in its floodplain.

    Never seen that in thirty years! And that’s why we never want to see it again.


  7. livinginindiana Reply

    Just to post to the last person who posted, I live in the area that was flooded. I do NOT live in a flood area. For an area to be considered flood area it had to have flooded within the last 100 years and reported. The point I am making here is, no single person on the face of this earth can sit back and say they know exactly where to build a home because it could be on the largest sinkhole ever, you just never know. As for we live here and we deserve what we get because we know it will flood, well no we didnt know it would flood because we are NOT in a flood area. I could care less about the tax breaks until it comes to ignorant people like you saying everyone deserves what they get because they should know better to begin with. I hope you never have to think about how you will get your kids out of the house if something like this were to happen in your area.

  8. I live in an area that got flooded real bad. We are not in a flood plain or anything like that. We just happened to get more rain and more rain than we have had in over 100 years! We had 7 tornado warnings that night. It was one storm after another. Our city couldnt help that. So maybe think before you talk. So many people lost so much. Nobody had flood insurance because there are NEVER floods here.
    I am in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

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