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Consumer Alert:

12/20/2005

Gallagher Urges Floridians in Hurricane-impacted Areas to Take Advantage of Special Tax Relief

 

 

CONTACT:
Tami Torres or Bob Lotane
(850) 413-2842
     
TALLAHASSEE – With the end of the 2005 tax season fast approaching, Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer, encouraged Floridians impacted by this year's hurricanes to take advantage of tax and time relief measures available. 
 
"Many hurricane victims are still struggling to repair their homes and rebuild their lives," said Gallagher.  "We want to get the word out that Floridians who were impacted by, or helped victims of, the 2005 storms may qualify for tax savings or obtain extensions for reporting and payment deadlines."
 
The Katrina Emergency Relief Act, effective Sept 23, 2005, postpones deadlines for storm victims to perform many time-sensitive acts until Feb. 28, 2006.  These include filing quarterly federal employment and excise tax returns, corporate estimated tax payments and individual estimated tax payments due to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
 
Both individuals and businesses can also qualify for certain tax deductions if they've suffered losses resulting from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita or Wilma.  Floridians who helped or housed evacuees from hurricanes may also qualify for tax relief.
 
Gallagher said that Floridians may be able to lower their federal taxes by claiming hurricane property losses not covered by insurance.  This is allowed for damage caused by sudden, unexpected or unusual events such as hurricanes.  Victims living in the federally-declared disaster areas can claim these losses on last year's taxes by filing an amendment to their 2004 return. 
 
Taxpayers in the entire state of Florida will be eligible for relief if they identify themselves as affected by Hurricane Katrina.
 
The Hurricane Wilma Emergency Relief Act is awaiting the President's signature.  Upon the act being signed, taxpayers who identify themselves as victims of Hurricane Wilma will be eligible for relief if they live in the following 20 counties:  Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Indian River, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Osceola, Palm Beach, Polk, St. Lucie and Sarasota. 
 
The IRS has requested that any envelopes or correspondence that are subject to these extended deadlines should have either Hurricane Wilma or Hurricane Katrina printed in red on the top of the envelope or tax form to identify them as coming from a hurricane victim. The IRS has set up a special help line for hurricane victims at (866) 562-5227.
 
Gallagher said that tax breaks are also available for good Samaritans who took in homeless Katrina victims for at least 60 days. You can take an extra $500 exemption for each of your guests, up to a maximum of $2,000.
 
The Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) announced it will work with filers and companies in areas designated as federally declared disaster areas to extend filing and payment deadlines on a case-by-case basis.  DOR can be contacted at 800-352-3671 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.  Links to websites with information on all of these issues can be found at www.fldfs.com
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. Gallagher also serves as the State Fire Marshal.