Like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, oil spill victims are about to get kicked by the IRS while they are down.
According to a recent Associated Press report, payments by British Petroleum to oil spill victims will be taxed as regular income. The same report quoted several Gulf Coast residents as saying that the money has been entirely spent to make house payments and keep food on the table. They are understandably angry that they will be billed by the IRS for what little help has arrived.
After Katrina, many New Orleans residents found that the shortage of carpenters made rebuilding their homes within arbitrary IRS time deadlines impossible. To wait meant that insurance company payments would count as taxable income and a lot of people chose to rebuild in other cities where carpenters and homebuilders were not in such short supply. It hurt New Orleans and hurt our citizens.
In the name of common sense and compassion for our countrymen on the Gulf, every American should ask Congress and the White House to order the IRS to stand down now on taxes for BP relief payments. These modest and tardy payments will hardly restore lives and livelihoods that have now been damaged or forever destroyed. To follow up with a federal tax bill is like kicking a person who has just been hit by a truck. It is not the first time it has happened, but it should be the last.
The economies of our Gulf Coast states will be hard hit enough because of the ripple effect of lost incomes and damage to fishing, oil production and tourism. The IRS should not compound this damage with tax bills on those who are hardest hit.
There are a lot of reasons to hate the dysfunctional federal tax system that makes members of Congress powerful and tax lobbyists rich. It is corruption and obvious economic damage to the nation on display. But as bad as it is, few Americans would agree that the federal government should further bleed those who are already reeling from the damage to their beloved Gulf coast communities and their own lives.
Both the White House and Congress have the power to help by immediately ordering the IRS to forgo tax bills on emergency relief payments to oil spill victims. Common sense and simple compassion require us to take this step. The question is: can common sense trump the usual rigidity of tax policy and the self-interests of those who think that revenue to the federal government is always more important than the pursuit of happiness—or even survival—by our citizens.
More than 500,000 supporters of the FairTax campaign and the Online Tax Revolt Campaign, which I chair, will be asked to write to the White House right away in support of our countrymen. Whether one embraces the FairTax or the fundamental tax reform approach advocated by Online Tax Revolt marchers, every American should write to members of Congress and the White House asking for needed relief.
Individually, we may not be able to do a lot now about damage that has already been done to our waters and shorelines, but we sure can do something about further damage by the IRS to those who now face a hard road in recovering from that damage. Our Online Tax Revolt marchers will immediately begin a journey to New Orleans and will stay there, digitally, until this tax relief has been achieved.
This is a call to action to every American to stand up for our fellow Americans and against a broken tax system that has already done enough damage to our economy and taxpayer’s lives.
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Ken Hoagland is a long time grassroots advocate who has written extensively on the disconnect between citizens desires and government policies on health care, taxes and education. He recently founded “ArmorGrid.org” to pressure government official to get serious about the dangers to our electrical grid.