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Many WTC Victims Left without Tax Refunds after IRS Fails to Inform of Tax Breaks

Aug 7, 2014

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) failed to update its public guidance informing WTC victims of big tax breaks. As a result, many 9/11 survivors and their families are missing out on refunds that they are entitled to, New York Daily News reports.

The law states that disability income resulting from terrorism cannot be taxed. Even though this law passed months after the 9/11 attacks, many eligible filers did not know about this benefit because the IRS never advertised it. According to NY Daily News, the city's insurance manager, tax preparers and firms were also left unaware. Police, firefighters and other first responders who suffered illnesses from the WTC site can claim the larger of the following two options: $10,000 or the last three years of taxes they have paid.

This issue has previously been raised by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; her office found out about the tax benefit through an ill rescue worker. There appeared to be progress in April, when IRS head John Koskinen assured her that the guidance would be updated. It has been three months, however, and the changes have still not been made. NY Daily News reports that Gillibrand spoke with Koskinen on Friday, and her office said that he promised immediate action. Glen Caplin, spokesman for Gillibrand, said “The senator appreciates the commissioner’s personal commitment to resolving this issue quickly,”

The senator’s office is still assisting rescue workers who are being resisted by the IRS for their rightful tax benefits.

Some are still worried that lower-level IRS officials will take their time, at cost to victims and their families. The deadline to file for refunds is three years within the diagnosis of an illness. For families of those who have died, the latest time to file is three years after the date of death.

Ben Chevat heads a nonprofit monitoring benefit programs for WTC victims. He stressed the importance of swift action to NY Daily News, stating “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, as will the families of those who died from their 9/11 injury,”

Chris Gifford is a retired NYPD cop who spent days at Ground Zero during the rescue efforts. At the age of 59, he now suffers from kidney cancer. But when he tried to seek a tax refund, he said a hotline operator told him no help was available. “She said, ‘We can’t give out that information,’” said Gifford. Another first responder who did not want to be named told NY Daily News that he experienced something similar with his tax preparer. “He didn’t want to get involved,” the responder stated.

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