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IRS opens toll-free oil spill hotline

If you have tax issues related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, you now can call the IRS directly for answers at 866-562-5227.

The special toll-free telephone line will be open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time. You can ask specific oil spill related tax questions, as well as discuss your options if you're having difficulty filing or paying your taxes because of the disaster.

In certain cases, says the IRS, collection and examination actions might be suspended. The key here is to let the IRS know and ask for the special help.

Remember, though, that even if some or all penalties are abated, interest will continue to accrue on outstanding unpaid tax debts.

Other help still available: In addition to postponing collection actions, the IRS says it will work with taxpayers who are facing oil spill issues or other economic hardship in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Allowing flexibility for missed payments on installment agreements and offers in compromise for eligible taxpayers; 
  • Considering a taxpayer's current and future income when negotiating an offer in compromise; and
  • Accelerating releases of tax levies.

You also might want to discuss your tax problems with the Taxpayer Advocate Service if you aren't having any luck resolving the issues through normal IRS channels.

And a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives continues to work on legislation that could provide additional tax reliefto businesses and individuals hit hardest by the economic effects of the spill.

Special help day still on tap: Finally, the IRS is working out details for its previously announced special oil spill assistance day on July 17.

On that Saturday, IRS employees will be available in seven Gulf Coast cities -- Mobile, Ala.; Panama City and Pensacola, Fla.; New Orleans, Houma and Baton Rouge, La.; and Gulfport, Miss. -- to work with taxpayers and tax preparers to resolve tax issues related to the oil spill.

Times and meeting place addresses will be announced soon.

Finally, some good news: Keep your fingers crossed, but it looks like the Gulf Coast might finally be getting some good news in connection with the underwater leak.

BP may contain all of the flow from the Gulf gusher within the next four days by accelerating installation of a tight seal between the damaged wellhead and surface production vessels, according to Thad Allen, the government's national incident coordinator.

I know I'm ready to see the numbers on this oil flow counter stop!

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