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Dec. 31 is new tax deadline for Louisiana taxpayers hit by Hurricane Laura

Louisiana National Guard members help clear roadways and assess damages on Aug. 27, 2020, in Lake Charles, Louisiana after Hurricane Laura made landfall the night before. (Courtesy of the Louisiana National Guard via Wikipedia Commons)

Louisiana residents hard hit by major Hurricane Laura's landfall in that state last month now are getting some tax relief.

The Internal Revenue Service has announced updated on Sept. 10 its list providing residents in 16 18 parishes until Dec. 31, 2020, to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments. 

The eligible parishes are Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Grant, Jackson, Jefferson Davis, Lincoln, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Rapides, Sabine, Union, Vermillion, Vernon, and Winn.

The IRS uses the major disaster areas designated by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). If any additional areas are added to the Hurricane Laura disaster, the IRS relief will apply to them. The tax agency also keeps track of these disaster-eligible areas on its own disaster relief page.

Hurricane Laura's long relief window: Although Laura did not strike the Pelican State until early Aug. 27, the IRS' proclamation covers tax deadlines that were in place on Aug. 22. That's the day that Laura, which made landfall as a dangerous category 4 hurricane, was upgraded to tropical storm status as she headed for the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Marco (left) and Tropical Storm Laura (right) on Aug. 23 as they approach the Gulf Coast. Marco faded, but Laura hit Louisiana as a category 4 storm on Aug. 27. (NASA satellite image via Wikipedia Commons)

The IRS says Louisiana taxpayers who live in or have a business in the designated parishes now have until the end of this year to fulfill their normal tax obligations that are or were due since Aug. 22.

The new deadline date delay means that Louisianans who got an extension to Oct. 15 to file their 2019 tax returns now have until Dec. 31 to finish those 1040 forms.

The IRS notes, however, that because tax payments related to these 2019 returns were due on July 15, there is no payment relief. And due tax should have been paid with the extension request. If the full amount wasn't made then, existing penalties and interest still accrue even though the final form filing deadline has moved.

The Dec. 31 deadline also applies to quarterly estimated income tax payments that are due on Sept. 15.

As for affected Pelican State businesses, quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on Nov. 2 now are postponed until Dec. 31. Businesses with extensions also have the additional time including, among others, calendar-year corporations whose 2019 extensions run out on Nov. 15.

In addition, penalties on business tax deposits due on or after Aug. 22 and before Sept. 8 will be abated as long as the tax deposits were made by September 8, 2020.

No added tax action needed: If you're a Louisiana taxpayer, individual or business, who qualifies for the Hurricane Laura related relief, you don't need to do anything.

In major disaster situations, the IRS automatically provides filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in the disaster area.

However, if an affected taxpayer receives a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date falling within the postponement period, the taxpayer should call the number on the notice to have the penalty abated.

Out-of-area relief considerations: The IRS also realizes that strict geographic boundaries don't always apply in disaster situations. That's why the agency will work with any taxpayer who lives outside the officially-designated disaster areas, but whose records necessary to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are located in the affected area.

It that's you, you need to contact the IRS toll-free at (866) 562-5227.

The Hurricane Laura relief also extends to individuals who are in the storm-struck areas assisting with relief activities as long as they are activities conducted by a recognized government or philanthropic organization.

Major disaster relief updates, assistance: The IRS relief for Hurricane Laura victims comes on the heels of other major disasters in the United States this year. Most recently that's been wildfires in California, the derecho in Iowa and damage from Tropical Storm Cristobal.

Whenever a major disaster strikes, be sure to take advantage of any help, private and governmental. And definitely take note of tax-related relief.

In addition to deadline delays, you also might be able to claim uninsured major disaster losses on your taxes. You also get the option to claim them on either the return for the year the loss occurred or the prior tax year.

For Laura and other major disasters in 2020, that would be on this tax year's return normally filed in 2021, or by including the loss on your 2019 return if you've not yet filed it. If you have filed your 2019 taxes and want to claim the loss because that will get you a refund or a bigger one, you can amend that return, electronically now.

Whenever you do claim your major disaster losses on your tax return, be sure to write the appropriate FEMA declaration number on your tax return. For Hurricane Laura claims, that's #4559. IRS Publication 547 has more details.

If you need and qualify for any tax or government help after a disaster, take it.

If you're in a potential national disaster area, which is anywhere in the United States and any time of the year, make the preparations appropriate for your part of the country. You can find tips on how to get ready in the ol' blog's special Storm Warnings storm prep tips page.

Most importantly, stay safe. Your well-being always comes before taxes.

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