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House eyes last-minute tax break for Chile donations

By Annalyn Censky, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Taxpayers may still be able to deduct last-minute donations to Chile earthquake relief from their 2009 taxes, if a bipartisan bill introduced in the House on Tuesday is signed into law.

Two representatives from Michigan -- Sander Levin, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, and Dave Camp, a Republican on the committee -- introduced the bill, which would allow taxpayers to deduct these charitable donations from their 2009 taxes instead of having to wait until next year.

"Millions of families have given selflessly, even in uncertain economic times, so that those struck by natural disaster may begin rebuilding their lives," Levin said in a statement. "This bill will encourage those who are considering a donation to take action now."

Donations to Chile would have to be made before the April 15 filing deadline to qualify for a 2009 deduction.

As for taxpayers who may have already filed their 2009 returns -- that's not a problem, said Jackie Perlman, a tax analyst with The Tax Institute at H&R Block. If the law passes, taxpayers can still take advantage of the 2009 deduction by filing an amendment through the 1040-X, a form for making changes to a tax return after it's filed.

Or, they can simply wait to file their deduction until next year instead, she said.

Perlman also cautions donors to beware of scammers and make sure they're only donating to qualified, tax-exempt charities. Taxpayers interested in the deduction should note that the bill has merely been introduced -- it's not a law, just yet.

"You're certainly more than welcome to make a donation to Chile earthquake relief but if you're assuming the bill is going to pass, that may not be wise," Perlman said. "You always want to wait until it's a done deal."

Haiti's top corporate donors

In January, Congress unanimously passed a law that makes donations to Haiti tax deductible in the 2009 tax year, if the donations were made between January 11 and March 1. President Obama signed the bill into law on January 22.

The bill introduced today would also extend the deadline for tax-deductible Haiti donations to April 15.

Chilean officials estimate that some 2 million people have been affected in one way or another by the earthquake, while 708 have been reported dead. January's earthquake in Haiti left an estimated 212,000 people dead and more than a million homeless. To top of page

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