published Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Tax day delay aids storm victims

DEADLINE EXTENSION


Federal tax deadlines falling on or after Feb. 29 and before May 31 are automatically extended until May 31 for individuals who live, own a business or keep their tax records in the following counties:

• Bradley

• Claiborne

• Cumberland

• DeKalb

• Hamilton

• Jackson

• McMinn

• Monroe

• Overton

• Polk

Source: Internal Revenue Service

Tuesday is the last day to file federal income taxes, unless you live in a county affected by storms earlier this year.

Each Tennessee county declared a disaster area, including Hamilton, Bradley and Polk counties, had its federal tax filing deadline extended to May 31 to allow people more time to gather their tax records. The deadline was automatically extended for anyone who lives or owns a business in affected counties. Affected taxpayers who don't meet those qualifications may contact the Internal Revenue Service and request the extension.

"Anybody who's dealing with damage, or maybe has a relative or friend they're trying to help, or even injury or death, they probably need more time to deal with the basics of life like taxes," said Dan Boone, spokesman for the IRS.

Taxpayers suffering storm damage may make a claim on that damage either this year or next.

Even if an individual was not personally affected by storms, they still have the extra 44 days to file. IRS computers automatically apply the deadline extension to all zip codes in an affected county.

That extension is particularly useful for anyone owing the government money. Instead of paying on April 17, individuals can file their return, find out how much they owe and pay as late as May 31 without incurring penalties.

"You might as well get the return in and see how much you need to save," said Diana Jacobsen, an H&R Block enrolled agent. "Some people say, 'No, I'm going to go ahead and pay next week anyway.' Other people say, 'I'm going to wait until the beginning of May for my pension or my Social Security payment.'"

Jacobsen said corporations are also taking advantage of the extension. Their filings are usually pushed to get done by the March 15 deadline. This has given those companies struggling with deadlines a little extra breathing room.

Tax filings became more complicated in recent years, causing businesses to complete their tax forms closer to the deadline. That creates increased pressure for accountants, who have more returns to file in a shorter amount of time.

"It does give some relief, because it's a very compressed period of time" said Kim Lawrence, principal in charge of the Chattanooga tax department for Decosimo Certified Public Accountants.

Of course, a changed deadline can throw a bit of a wrench in accountants' planned schedules.

"If you're responsible for something that is now due May 31, you better get it off your list before you go on vacation," Lawrence said.

But overall, Jacobsen said people are treating this tax season as they would any other and rushing to finish everything by Tuesday.

"There may be a little extra traffic in the off season," she said. "But as far as most of our offices, it seems like people are getting in and, unless they're actually affected, part of their house is gone or a tree fell on it or something, most people are going to get it in."

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