If you’re a victim of one of the recent devastating hurricanes, you probably already have plenty on your mind. The last thing you need is a long intro reminding you of how terrible hurricanes are.
So let’s get right down to it.
Here’s a breakdown of the tax relief offered by the IRS to victims of Hurricane Fiona and Hurricane Ian.
To preface, a good tax software or tax pro can help you with all this. Half of all Americans use a live tax professional to help them file their returns, and the rest use e-filing tax software that’s becoming easier to use with every passing year.
So don’t feel like you need to memorize all of these qualifications and forms. Just know they’re there, and bookmark this page for tax season.
TL;DR: The IRS is Offering 4 Forms of Tax Relief
I’ll break down the who/what/when below, but to get things started, here’s a quick summary of the relief the IRS is offering disaster victims in 2022:
- Deadline extensions — Pretty much any filings you owed the IRS between now and January have been pushed back to February 15, 2023.
- Qualified disaster losses — Casualty losses (i.e., property damage) incurred can now be listed as a qualified disaster loss with additional tax relief.
- Fees waived for past tax returns — Victims in affected areas can request copies or transcripts of past tax returns without paying the $43 fee.
- Collections or examinations may be reassessed — Disaster victims who have been contacted by the IRS on a collection or examination matter may see extensions or additional forms of relief.
Who Is Covered?
Hurricane Ian Victims (All of Florida)
The IRS claimed it will work with hurricane victims “throughout Florida” who suffered losses due to the hurricane.
And they’re not exaggerating. It’s literally all of Florida.
That’s because in the event of a disaster, the IRS goes by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s official map of stricken areas. And Ian was so uniquely devastating that FEMA just declared the whole state an affected area.
As a result, it includes all individuals and households that reside or have a business “anywhere in the state of Florida.”
Hurricane Fiona Victims (All of Puerto Rico)
The IRS will also provide identical tax relief to victims of Hurricane Fiona with homes or businesses in Puerto Rico. At the time of this writing, that’s “all 78 municipalities.”
Victims of Other Natural Disasters in 2022 (Alaska Storms, Wildfires, etc.)
Broadly speaking, the IRS’s response to most disasters has been to extend your deadlines and remind you to include uninsured, disaster-related losses on your returns. So if you’re impacted by the severe storms in Alaska or the California wildfires, most of what you read here will likely apply to you.
Even still, it helps to confirm and read the fine print, as things can change over time. If you were impacted by a non-hurricane related disaster, head to the IRS’s dedicated page for Tax Relief in Disaster Situations to read more about aid in your specific situation:
What if I’m Outside the Impacted Areas But My Business Was Still Affected?
Tax relief is reserved for victims with addresses inside the impacted areas. That means if your business was impacted more indirectly by the hurricane, you probably don’t qualify for any form of tax relief.
That said, the IRS makes two exceptions, claiming they’ll work with:
- Any taxpayer who lives outside the disaster area but whose necessary records to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are located in the affected area; and
- Workers assisting the relief activities who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization.
To break down no. 1 a bit more, the IRS is saying that if you lost tax-sensitive documents in the hurricane (files, receipts, hard drives, etc.) then you likely qualify for relief.
However, since you live outside of the impacted areas, the IRS won’t automatically offer you relief. You need to contact them (866-562-5227) to explain your situation.
If I Qualify, What Do I Have to Do to Claim the Relief?
To claim your deadline extensions, you just need to check your address with the IRS using your last tax return. If your address on record with the IRS is inside FEMA’s official disaster areas, you automatically qualify for the deadline extensions. There’s no need to reach out to them.
That said, you may still get an erroneous penalty or late filing notice. If so, the IRS says you just need to call the number listed on the penalty/notice to get it abated (i.e., removed).
To claim disaster-related casualty losses on your tax returns, you’ll need to include a Disaster Designation on Form 4684. To do that, you’ll write “Puerto Rico Hurricane Fiona” or “FL Hurricane Ian” in big bold letters up top. You’ll also need to include the FEMA disaster declaration number: EM-3583-PR or DR-4673-FL, respectively.
If you’re doing your own taxes, Publication 547 can help you out with this.
Alright. Now that we know who qualifies for relief, let’s talk about what that relief looks like.
What Tax Relief is Available to Victims?
Here’s a much more detailed breakdown of the four points listed in my TL;DR at the top of the article. And remember, the IRS has plenty of additional resources to further assist victims of Ian and Fiona:
Filing Deadline Extensions
The IRS’s main form of relief is time. In brief, if you’re a resident of Florida or Puerto Rico and you had a tax filing deadline coming up, it’s almost certainly been pushed back to February 15, 2023.
- 2021 filing extensions originally due on October 17, 2022
- Q4 2022 estimated tax payments originally due on January 17, 2023
- Quarterly payroll and excise tax returns originally due on October 31, 2022 and January 31, 2023
It never hurts to start early on your taxes — especially when you need time to calculate your qualified disaster loss, discussed below — but at least now you have one less thing to worry about as you focus on recovery.
Uninsured or Unreimbursed Disaster-Related Losses Can Be Claimed on 2021 or 2022 Taxes
In addition to deadline extensions, victims will be able to list qualified disaster losses on their taxes to receive some monetary relief.
In short, qualified disaster losses are things like home repairs, car repairs/replacement, etc., that you incur as a direct result of the disaster. The IRS will allow you to deduct some of your losses remaining after insurance has already paid out. In the case of Hurricanes Fiona and Ian, you also have the choice of including them on your 2021 returns (if you had a valid extension) or your 2022 returns.
The formula for identifying and calculating qualified disaster losses is a bit tricky. Again, tax software and life tax professionals can help you out and file them appropriately. To learn more and/or take a stab at it yourself, check out IRS Topic 515.
Fees Are Temporarily Waived for Requests of Previously Filed Tax Returns
The IRS will always send you a copy of your old tax returns upon request if you file Form 4506, but they typically charge a $43 fee (that’s why you always want to keep your own records).
Thankfully, for hurricane victims that fee is currently waived.
Anyone Contacted on a Collection or Examination Matter May Also Receive Relief
At the very bottom of their announcement, the IRS says that anyone who’s contacted by them on a “collection or examination matter” will have the chance to explain how the disaster has impacted them.
They don’t provide specifics, but it’s possible that if you live outside of the affected areas and the disaster has directly led to you missing a deadline or a payment, you may have a chance to explain yourself and see some relief.
What Other Federal Aid is Available to Hurricane Victims?
Back in September, President Biden approved FEMA aid to both Puerto Rico and Florida to support hurricane relief efforts.
The U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) also offers federal disaster relief in the form of physical damage loans, mitigation assistance, etc. To learn more, visit the SBA’s disaster assistance homepage.
Lastly, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers a helpful landing page that simply consolidates all of the federal financial aid out there. Check out their financial toolkit for victims of hurricanes Fiona and Ian.
What About State Assistance?
Visit FLGov.com for a list of ways to receive aid from the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM), such as your nearest distribution point for emergency aid.
State officials have also issued three helpful tips that apply to all victims:
- Call your insurance provider right away and take tons of photos of your property damage.
- See if your county has set up an “insurance village” where you can file claims in person.
- Beware of scams, and stick to aid provided by .gov websites and your own insurance provider.
How Can I Support Those in Need?
The office of Governor Ron DeSantis has officially endorsed the Florida Disaster Fund as a legitimate way to donate and support victims.