In most years, for most people, natural disasters play no part in filing their federal income tax returns. Nonetheless, 2017 was that rare year when natural disasters likely affected millions of tax filings. In August and September 2017, three powerful hurricanes in rapid succession struck U.S. territory: Hurricane Harvey created historic flooding in Texas, Hurricane Irma hit Florida and points north, and Hurricane Maria laid waste to Puerto Rico. While tax filings likely were not the first thing on the minds of those hit by these hurricanes, nonetheless the Internal Revenue Service has provisions that can help ease the path of those affected by hurricanes or other natural disasters.
While the IRS may be cold-hearted by reputation, the tax code actually provides relief for taxpayers affected by natural disasters. The IRS can grant filing extensions and other relief for taxpayers affected by federally declared natural disasters. Taxpayers who live within a presidentially designated disaster area are given an extension to file and pay taxes. Any interest, penalties, or late filing fees that might otherwise apply are held in abeyance.
This relief can range from extending the time period for filing returns and paying taxes due to accelerated refunds for disaster victims for losses suffered in the previous tax year.
How Can the IRS Help?
It is possible that if you have property damaged or destroyed in an area that has been federally designated as a major disaster area, you can recover some money from the IRS immediately. Taxpayers in an area designated by the president as a disaster area have the option of claiming disaster-related casualty losses on their federal income tax return for either the current year or the previous year. By claiming the loss on an original or amended return for the previous year the taxpayer will get an earlier refund. However, waiting to claim the loss on the current tax year’s return could result in a greater tax saving, depending on other income factors. Such decisions are best made with the help of expert advice.
In addition, there are disaster loans, grants, and other assistance from federal relief agencies, Including the IRS. However, to be eligible for this kind of assistance, you must be current on required federal tax returns. The IRS has services to help make sure that you can prepare your returns on time even in the event of a natural disaster, and thus remain eligible for disaster relieve that is not tax-related.
If Have Been Affected By a Natural Disaster, Contact Tax Attorney Jeff Cohen, Attorney at Law
If you have been affected by a natural disaster, this can have an impact on your ability to file your tax return or to be able to pay back taxes to the IRS. Under such circumstances, you should seek legal advice. In the wake of a natural disaster, everybody needs help, and nobody needs to be wading through the minutia of tax law while attempting to put a life back together. In a situation like this, you should contact tax attorney Jeff Cohen, Attorney at Law. You can call me at (404) 814-0000 or use my online contact form.