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New Jersey tax returns go up in flames

Disasters happen every day. And in many instances, people's tax filings are affected.

But here's one unforeseen circumstance that taxpayers can't prepare for: Your tax returns are burned in a mail truck fire.

On Sept. 11, a delivery truck carrying mail addressed to the New Jersey Division of Taxation was involved in an accident on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The truck caught fire and, according to New Jersey's Treasury Department, most of the correspondence in the vehicle burned.

Burned mail truck_Clark County Washington fire station photo_KOMO News

"The contents of the truck were destroyed beyond recognition, with the exception of a small number of certified mail pieces, some of which could be identified as mail intended for Taxation and other State agencies," report N.J. officials, who learned about the destroyed tax material nine days after the incident.

The U.S. Postal Service says the destroyed mail most likely was collected from Sept. 7 to Sept. 10.

It is believed to have originated in North Jersey and was picked up from street collection boxes located in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties. Affected ZIP codes start with 070 to 076, 078, 079, 088 or 089.

So Garden State taxpayers, if you mailed any state tax material early last month, you might want to check with the New Jersey Division of Taxation to see it your filing arrived.

Also check with your bank if you paid any tax bill with a paper check to see if it cleared. The N.J. tax office, however, says you should allow two bank statement cycles for its payments to be processed.

Refile your burned return: If state officials didn't receive your original return and you believe it was torched in the wreck, pull out your copies. You did make copies, right?

New Jersey will accept a duplicate of the return it it was part of the conflagration.

Or you can refile electronically.

And if you pay any due tax on or before Monday, Oct. 15, the state officials will waive late filing and late payment penalties.

Penalty waivers: If you decide to wait, however, and you get a billing notice from New Jersey for late filing and/or late payment penalties, respond to the notice in writing to request an abatement of the charges.

Write "September 11 Mail Truck Fire" in the subject line of your response and explain the circumstances.

Indicate when and where the original package was mailed and provide any other pertinent details.

If you sent a payment check with your original mailing, include a copy of that check, if available. If you don't have and can't get a copy, the New Jersey tax office will accept a copy of the portion of your checkbook or check register that shows the date of the original payment.

If you have any questions, you can call the tax office's Customer Services Center at (609) 292-6400 or e-mail state tax officials.

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