I was just beginning to think the current Congress was so divided that it would be impossible to actually have a bipartisan bill. But last week, the Democrats and Republicans in Congress proved me wrong. Of course, it took an unprecedented disaster to make it happen.
Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow contributors of cash to Haiti disaster relief to take that contribution off their 2009 taxes, instead of having to wait and take it off their 2010 taxes. The bill had been introduced by leaders of both parties, and passed by a wide margin. On Thursday, the Senate also passed the bill -- unanimously.
They bipartisan move was to encourage Americans to donate to cash to Haiti relief efforts (so far, over $200 million has been donated by Americans). Donations that are made between January 12th and February 28th can be used as a deduction on 2009 taxes. Text donations would also be deductible with a phone bill showing the contribution.
But don't get too excited, especially if you only made a small donation and will be filing either the 1040EZ or the 1040A form. The contributions must be a part of itemized deductions on the 1040 long form, and you'll need a significant amount of deductions to make it worth your while to file the long form and itemize.
But even though this deduction won't actually be available to most tax filers, it is nice to see that Democrats and Republicans can agree about something. Now if they could only carry this over to health care reform, climate change, energy policy, job creation and reform of financial regulations, we would all be better off.
But I'm just dreaming. That could never happen.