Victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks and their families are entitled to big tax breaks, but many are missing out because the IRS isn’t telling them about the benefit.
Under a law passed a few months after the attacks, disability income for illnesses and injuries resulting from terrorism is not taxable. Thousands of police officers, firefighters, and other first responders and volunteers who became ill after working at the site can claim $10,000, or the last three years of taxes paid, whichever amount is larger. But the IRS never updated its publications to include this benefit, the New York Daily News reports.
Tax preparers, accounting firms, and individual filers were left without the necessary information, and even when they contacted the IRS about the tax break, they often didn’t get information. One first responder told the Daily News that his tax preparer could not get the necessary information and declined to file for the refund. Chris Gifford, a retired NYPD officer who has kidney cancer linked to his Ground Zero work said a hotline operator told him she couldn’t give out the information he needed.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is helping refund seekers whose efforts have been thwarted by lack of information and her office is pushing the IRS for swift action. In April IRS head John Koskinen told her the agency would update its guidance, but that still hasn’t been done, according to the Daily News.
Advocates for victims are concerned that lower-level officials will drag their feet until next year, and many may lose the benefit. Victims have to file for refunds within three years of a diagnosis, and families of those who died must file within three years of the date of death, the Daily News says. “The IRS needs to update their publications as soon as possible or disabled 9/11 responders and survivors will lose another year of this tax relief,” said Ben Chevat, of 9/11 Healthwatch, a nonprofit monitoring benefit programs.