It has been a busy year for disasters, as evidenced by a recent study showing that about 1 in 3 Americans lives in a county hit by a weather disaster in just the past three months.
As bad as that sounds, there is a bigger storm ahead.
Congress is set to impose a “hurricane tax” that would raise insurance premiums, particularly for climate-related catastrophes. The provision buried in the Joe Biden administration’s Made in America Tax Plan (MATP) would hike taxes on reinsurers and disproportionately affect Florida residents’ home and property insurance rates. Reinsurance companies are the financial backstop to a number of insurance companies that underwrite homeowner policies in Florida. Because so much capital is at risk and the probability of losses is uncertain, it is incredibly expensive to insure catastrophic losses, so when a property owner buys a homeowner’s insurance policy, the insurance company buys reinsurance to hedge their risk.
The MATP provision would increase the cost of reinsurance in two ways: increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and imposing a global minimum tax with proposed rates from 15% to 28%. These costs will be passed down to property insurance companies and then to property owners, increasing premiums for homeowners and businesses.
Though these changes will affect the cost of insurance for all U.S. consumers, the price increases will be largest for those living in areas exposed to catastrophe losses, making it essentially a hurricane tax on Floridians, one that many cannot afford when they are already paying some of the highest property insurance premiums in the nation.
How much will it cost Floridians?
Based on a recent estimate by the R Street Institute, Florida insurance rates are expected to grow by $864 million to $1.62 billion. As these tax increases are passed through to consumers, they will effectively tax everyone who buys insurance, regardless of income.
The White House has made promises that the tax plan will not impact those with incomes under $400,000, but that’s not actually possible.
The taxation provisions on businesses and offshore reinsurance companies will ultimately be passed onto millions of consumers at all income levels in the form of higher premiums to protect their homes and small businesses. An honest look at the Biden Tax Plan reveals this basic fact and truth: hardworking Americans at any income level will pay higher insurance premiums because of this onerous provision.
Oftentimes, well-intentioned but ill-conceived public policy can exacerbate an already strained system. This hurricane tax is the wrong idea at the wrong time for Floridians. Any unwarranted increases in insurance premiums will only result in putting homeownership farther out of reach for many families.
There is still time to fix this issue. Congress can amend the current proposal to remove this hurricane tax that adversely impacts Florida and other coastal states.
Dominic M. Calabro is president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute that serves as the eyes and ears of Florida’s taxpayers.