hurricane season

IRS Offers Tax Relief to Irma Victims

Hurricane Irma victims in parts of Florida and elsewhere have until Jan. 31, 2018, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments, the Internal Revenue Service announced. This includes an additional filing extension for taxpayers with valid extensions that run out on Oct. 16, and businesses with extensions that run out on Sept. 15.

"This has been a devastating storm for the Southeastern part of the country, and the IRS will move quickly to provide tax relief for victims, just as we did following Hurricane Harvey," says IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

The IRS offers this relief to any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as qualifying for individual assistance. Parts of Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are currently eligible, but taxpayers in localities added later to the disaster area, including those in other states, will automatically receive the same filing and payment relief.

The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on Sept. 4, 2017, in Florida and Sept. 5, 2017, in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until Jan. 31, 2018, to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due during this period.

This includes the Sept. 15, 2017 and Jan. 16, 2018, deadlines for making quarterly estimated tax payments. For individual tax filers, it also includes 2016 income tax returns that received a tax-filing extension until Oct. 16, 2017. The IRS notes, however, that because tax payments related to these 2016 returns were originally due on April 18, 2017, those payments are not eligible for this relief.

A variety of business tax deadlines are also affected including the Oct. 31 deadline for quarterly payroll and excise tax returns. Businesses with extensions also have the additional time including, among others, calendar-year partnerships whose 2016 extensions run out on Sept. 15, 2017, and calendar-year tax-exempt organizations whose 2016 extensions run out on Nov. 15, 2017.

In addition, the IRS is waiving late-deposit penalties for federal payroll and excise tax deposits normally due during the first 15 days of the disaster period. Check out the disaster relief page for the time periods that apply to each jurisdiction.

The IRS automatically provides filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in the disaster area. Thus, taxpayers need not contact the IRS to get this relief. 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.

Taxpayers qualifying for relief who live outside the disaster area need to contact the IRS at 866-562-5227. This also includes workers assisting the relief activities who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization.

Individuals and businesses who suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses can choose to claim them on either the return for the year the loss occurred (in this instance, the 2017 return normally filed next year), or the return for the prior year (2016). See Publication 547 for details.

The tax relief is part of a coordinated federal response to the damage caused by severe storms and flooding and is based on local damage assessments by FEMA. For information on disaster recovery, visit disasterassistance.gov.

For information on government-wide efforts related to Hurricane Irma, visit www.USA.gov/hurricane-irma.

Irma's Aftermath

More than 5.5 million homes and businesses in Florida remained without power at midday Tuesday after Hurricane Irma plowed through the state.

Food, water and gas deliveries were starting to return in Central and South Florida as the demand swells from returning evacuees. Airports started to provide limited operations. And the process of allowing people to return to homes was underway in most areas outside the storm-ravaged lower Florida Keys.

Irma is expected to cost the state and federal government billions of dollars.

Meanwhile, Florida Power & Light spokesman Rob Gould asked customers on Tuesday to be patient as they wait for restoration of electricity.

"We understand what it means to be in the dark. We understand what it means to be hot and without air conditioning," Gould said. "We are out there 24-7. This will not be just a daylight operation. We will be restoring power day and night."

The company, with more than 20,000 restoration workers, anticipates getting power back by the end of the weekend to most of its customers in eastern parts of Florida.

A deadline of Sept. 22 has been set for restoring power to customers in the company's western counties, which include all or parts of Manatee, Hardee, Sarasota, DeSoto, Charlotte, Lee, Hendry, Collier and Monroe.

The timelines don't include homes and areas that were completely destroyed by the storm, Gould noted.

Juno Beach-based FPL reported 2.8 million of its nearly 5 million homes and businesses were still without power on Tuesday.

St. Petersburg-based Duke Energy Florida had 1.27 million of its 1.8 million accounts in the dark on Tuesday. And Tampa Electric still had to reconnect 300,000 of its 750,000 accounts on Tuesday.

"Restoration will take days – but, thankfully, not weeks," Tampa Electric President and CEO Gordon Gillette, said in a prepared statement.

Tampa Electric said power had already been restored to about 20 percent of its customers who had been impacted.

Statewide, electricity has been restored to more than 1 million homes and businesses as the broader recovery process got underway from Irma, which hit the Keys and Southwest Florida on Sunday and traveled up the state before exiting North Florida on Monday.

"What you're going to see today all around the state, is you're going to see more resources," Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday morning while at Jacksonville International Airport. "This impacted the whole state, so it's hard to pre-position all the assets you'd want to position if the storm just came from one coast or the other. But even with that, I think the number is over 30,000 individuals from out of state are helping us get our power on."

Scott had earlier in the day taken an aerial tour of Jacksonville with the Florida National Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard had provided Scott with a similar view of Key West on Monday.

Damage assessment continues in the Florida Keys, where engineers are determining if bridges can handle the weight of returning vehicles. Water and sanitation also remain issues, Scott said.

Problems in Jacksonville stem from flash flooding from the St. Johns River. The U.S. Coast Guard reported rescuing more than 100 people Monday in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who put the number that needed rescuing from floodwaters at around 300 on Tuesday, expressed some frustration about people not heeding evacuation warnings.

"It would have been nice if there weren't people in the areas that were affected by the surge, but the first responders just stepped right up and did their jobs," Curry said.

Curry said he would have evacuated if he wasn't the city's mayor.

"We're not trying to be difficult. We're not trying to make people's lives inconvenient," Curry added. "I think the governor said it best leading up to this, evacuations are not about convenience, they're about safety."

Search and rescue operations continued in the Keys and Southwest Florida. Among other developments Tuesday:

  • More than 94,000 people remained in about 400 shelters still in use across Florida.
  • The Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee remained safe, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • The Florida Highway Patrol was escorting 44 tractor-trailers with relief supplies and 600 utility trucks into Southwest Florida.
  • Port Tampa, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral reopened for fuel trucks.
  • Florida reopened 20 state parks in the Panhandle, but 147 others throughout the peninsula remained closed Tuesday morning.
  • Lakeland-based Publix reported 22 of its 776 stores in Florida remained closed on Tuesday.

Source: News Service of Florida, Jim Turner

Florida Under State of Emergency!!

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday placed all of Florida under a state of emergency as the projected path of Hurricane Irma could take the powerful storm toward the southern part of the state by the end of the week.

The declaration is intended to give local governments in all 67 counties time to prepare, the governor's office said.

"Hurricane Irma is a major and life-threatening storm and Florida must be prepared," Scott said in a statement.

"Today, given these forecasts and the intensity of this storm, I have declared a state of emergency for every county in Florida to make certain that state, federal and local governments are able to work together and make sure resources are dispersed to local communities as we get prepared for this storm," he added.

Scott has been advising people the past couple of days – through Twitter – to prepare for the storm by visiting the Florida Department of Emergency Management's disaster page, which focuses on individuals, businesses and special needs Floridians.

"Families should take time today to make sure you have a disaster plan and fully-stocked disaster supply kit," Scott tweeted on Monday. "I am continuing to coordinate with emergency management officials as we monitor Hurricane Irma."

Hurricane Irma continues to fluctuate, but it's a Category 5 storm that may diminish only slightly if it passes over Caribbean Islands. The storm was moving towards the west at 13 mph, but most experts predict it will start to turn – but no one knows yet when that will happen. The National Hurricane Center said Monday that while it's too early to determine where the storm will go, "There is an increasing chance of seeing some impacts from Irma in the Florida peninsula and the Florida Keys later this week and this weekend."

Price gouging
Attorney General Pam Bondi also activated Florida's price gouging hotline for all consumers in Florida law prohibits extreme increases in the price of essential commodities, such as food, water, hotels, ice, gasoline, lumber and equipment needed as a direct result of an officially declared emergency. Anyone who suspects price gouging during this declared state of emergency should report it to the Attorney General's Office by calling 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.

Association and business preparations
Businesses should also be prepared for a storm to make sure operations can continue afterword. Following the series of storms in 2004, Florida Realtors created a preparation plan for local associations, though the recommendations generally apply to brokers too. For more info on other Florida Realtors efforts, including its tax-deductible Disaster Relief Fund, visit the website.

"In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared," Scott said in Monday's statement. "This state of emergency allows our emergency management officials to act swiftly in the best interest of Floridians without the burden of bureaucracy or red tape."