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Terrible tax timing for tornado victims in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma

While most Americans were finishing up their returns this past weekend, some folks in the middle of the country were trying to salvage what was left of their lives.

More than 100 tornadoes were reported in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma on April 14 and 15. Some, like the EF3 twister that his Woodward, Okla., touched down with deadly force.

Other places escaped direct hits, but were slammed by high winds, large hail and some flooding.

Many of those who endured the weekend weather onslaught probably didn't bother with meeting the April 17 tax filing deadline. Not even the IRS can blame them.

Tax help after a disaster: In catastrophic times, various tax relief is granted for victims of major disasters.

Because Mother Nature has a mean streak that rivals, and too often defeats, her maternal one, I've blogged many times before about storm-related tax issues, including extended filing deadlines, relief from some penalties and the option to file an amended return for the prior tax year and claim any disaster losses there if that reworked form would produce better tax results.

But the past weekend's tornadoes prompt me to once again mention major disaster tax relief, this time as the first Weekly Tax Tip of 2012.

Now that the main filing season has ended, I'll post a weekly tip in the upper right corner of the ol' blog where you have been seeing a Daily Tax Tip for the last three and half months.

Waiting for a disaster declaration: While some areas of the four states raked by devastating storms last weekend might eventually end up declared major disasters, for now the residents have to go about their lives as best they can, primarily with state aid.

It takes several weeks for Federal Emergency Management Agency staff to complete its evaluation of disaster areas and make their recommendation as to whether the president should declare the places eligible for special federal help, including tax relief.

The IRS maintains an online list of its disaster declarations;. FEMA also has its own disaster declarations page. You can check these periodically to see if you storm-struck area is on the lists.

In the meantime, folks in the tornado areas who didn't file their tax returns yesterday should do so as soon as they can.

They also should note on their returns the reason for the delay. An attached letter is fine, but you also can go the simpler route. Simply write the name of your state, what the disaster was and the date.

Eye-catching red ink, like the example below, is good. That way the IRS will get a heads-up as to why the return was late.

Disaster notation on 1040 filing

While the agency is awaiting official word on the status of the storms, it will consider each late filing on a case by case basis.

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