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California wildfire, Virginia hurricane victims get tax relief

Image courtesy Natural Disasters by Nina Bort via SlideShare

Thanksgiving week 2019 is a difficult time for many on both sides of the United States.

Hurricanes this summer devastated lives and property in parts of the South and Eastern Seaboard. This fall Californians are dealing with deadly wildfires.

Those of us who can help our less fortunate neighbors have many options, from the usual national charities that hit the ground in disaster areas to regionally specific nonprofits.

The Internal Revenue Service is helping in its way, too.

Hurricane Florence help in more of Virginia: This month, the IRS extended its previously announced tax relief for Hurricane Florence victims to more folks who live in or have businesses in additional Virginia counties and towns.

The latest locations bring to 32 the counties and cities in the Old Dominion where residents and business owners now are eligible for special federal tax consideration.

The affected Virginians live in or have businesses in the counties of Botetourt, Charles City (yes, it's a county), Chesterfield, Craig, Floyd, Franklin, Grayson, Halifax, Henry, Isle of Wight, King and Queen, King William, Lancaster, Lunenburg, Mathews, Mecklenburg, Nelson, Northumberland, Nottoway, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Pulaski, Russell and Roanoke Counties and the independent cities of Bristol, Danville, Franklin, Hampton, Martinsville, Newport News, Richmond and Williamsburg.

Under the IRS assistance for Florence victims, affected taxpayers generally have until Jan. 31, 2019, to file their 2017 tax returns that were on extension. You can find more on the IRS' Hurricane Florence tax relief options in this post, as well as the this follow-up item

California wildfire tax relief also granted: Three thousand miles away, the IRS says Californians in the wildfire areas, either as residents or business owners, also are eligible for special federal tax treatment.

The affected Golden State areas, for now, are Butte, Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Individual and business taxpayers in those three counties have until April 30, 2019, to meet filing deadlines that have occurred since the fires' initial Nov. 8 outbreak and since.

That means affected Californians get a couple of extra weeks to file individual 2018 tax returns that, for the rest of us, are due on April 15, 2019.

The new end-of-next-April due date also applies to other tax payments in the relief period, such as the first 2019 estimated tax payment.

Tax-exempt organizations in the wildfire relief areas that operate on a calendar-year basis and had an automatic extension due date of Nov. 15 also get the added filing time.

On the business tax side, quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on Jan. 31, 2019, now have the April 30, 2019, deadline. In addition, penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits that were due on or after Nov. 8, 2018, and before Nov. 23, 2018, will be abated as long as the deposits are made by Nov. 23.

Contact IRS with questions, penalty issues: if you're in the affected areas, you don't have to do anything to get the applicable tax relief.

The IRS automatically identifies taxpayers located in covered disaster areas and applies the qualifying filing and payment relief.

However, if you live in or have a company outside a covered disaster area but need data or documents that are/were in the disaster zones to complete your tax tasks, call the IRS' toll-free disaster hotline (866) 562-5227 to request tax relief.

Also, if you're a relief worker with a recognized government or philanthropic organization and are in the disaster areas helping, you too are eligible for the applicable tax relief.

Finally, while the IRS does its best to provide tax relief to those who qualify without any extra effort on their parts, sometimes things slip through in error.

If that happens and you, as a personal filer or business taxpayer in a tax-relief disaster zone, do erroneous get a late filing or late-payment penalty notice for a tax that fell within the postponement period, call the telephone number on the notice to have the IRS abate the penalty.

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