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Tax relief for terrorist attack victims and their families

This still painful anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. soil is underscored today by the recent killings of Americans abroad by Islamic State terrorists.

President Barack Obama, dignitaries, Sept. 11 survivors, rescuers, and victims' relatives marked the opening of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero in New York City on May 15. Video courtesy Channel 2, CBS, New York via YouTube.

As we and our lawmakers debate the next steps in the continuing war on global terrorists, we also must cope with the realities of life going on amid such terrible chaos.

Taxes and terror: Taxes are a part of that continuum. So the Internal Revenue Service has put together a special Web page and this month revised Publication 3920Tax Relief for Victims of Terrorist Attacks. Each details the available tax relief for victims of terrorist attacks and their families.

In general, victims, survivors and some dependents of those killed during the attack 13 years on the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania may be eligible to claim certain types of tax relief.

That same possible tax relief also is available to those affected by the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the 2001 anthrax terrorist attacks.

Here, according to the IRS, are the basics of the various terror-related tax relief provisions.

Disability payments to survivors: Disability payments, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments, aren't taxable if they're for injuries incurred as a direct result of any terrorist attack against the United States or its allies.

However, taxpayers must include in income any disability payments received or that would have been received in retirement if the individual hadn't become disabled as a result of a terrorist attack.

Tax forgiveness for those who died: Federal income tax liabilities of people who died from wounds or injuries related to the Oklahoma City or Sept. 11 attacks are forgiven. Federal income tax liabilities of people who died from an illness related to the 2001 anthrax attacks are also forgiven.

Income tax is forgiven going back to 2000 (1994 for victims of the Oklahoma City attack) whether a person was killed in an attack, died later as a result of an attack or by participating in rescue or recovery operations.

Minimum amount of relief: A minimum of $10,000 in relief is provided if the deceased person's total tax forgiveness is less than $10,000. Publication 3920 has more on which years are eligible for a credit or refund.

If you have specific questions about tax forgiveness, payments to survivors or disability payments related to a terrorist attack, you can call the IRS Special Services Hotline toll-free at 866-562-5227. The telephone line is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and their families. So do our fervent hopes that one day soon such tax considerations won't be necessary.


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