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Hurricane Sandy: Tips for Accessing Relief

 

The devastation caused by Hurricane  (now Superstorm) Sandy is widespread. And while you may not have been impacted directly by the storm, you may know of someone who was. Fortunately, the relief wheels are in motion, albeit never fast enough. In an effort to help those impacted and to help get the word out to those who may have been impacted here are some tips.

  • Qualified Disaster Area. The first step is to understand if you or someone you know is in a Designated Disaster Relief area. Counties in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have been included in the Disaster Area for Sandy. Please go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and review the covered areas. You may have to check often as the covered areas continue to change.
  • What do I Qualify for? There are so many programs, how do you know what aid is available to you? FEMA has a number of resources available to help work through the maze of programs. Here is a link to these tools; http://www.fema.gov/apply-assistance. If someone you know has lost power or is dislocated, consider helping them walk through these tools.
  • Relief Payments Received May Not be Income. Employers may donate money directly to an employee impacted by Superstorm Sandy without creating taxable income for the person receiving money. As long as the person receiving money qualifies, and the money is used for qualifying expenses not reimbursed by insurance, it is not considered taxable income. This also includes money received from individuals. While payments directly to an individual may not qualify as a charitable deduction for the donor, at least they are not deemed income to those in need.
    • Qualified Expenses. Qualified expenses per the IRS include amounts to “cover necessary personal, family, living or funeral expenses not covered by insurance. They also include expenses to repair or rehabilitate a personal residence.”
    • Tax-exempt Status Safe Harbor. Employer-sponsored private foundations can also provide disaster relief to their employee-victims without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status. Guidance on how to do this correctly can be found in IRS Publication 3833.
  • Consider Donating Your Vacation. Employees can donate vacation, sick, or personal leave time off for employer cash payments to qualified tax-exempt organizations providing Sandy relief. The forgone time off is not considered income to the employee. In addition, your employer may deduct the amounts paid. This special tax benefit can be applied for time off before 1/1/2014.
  • Tax Deadline Assistance. The IRS has postponed a number of tax and payment filing deadlines starting in late October and now gives impacted taxpayers until Feb. 1, 2013 to file the affected tax returns and pay any amounts due. The IRS will abate any late filing penalties and interest due. This includes:
    • 4th quarter individual estimated tax payments (normally due 1/15/2013)
    • 3rd/4th quarter excise tax returns and payments (due in the 3rd/4th quarter 2012)
    • Tax exempt Form 990 return filings due during this period
    • The IRS is also waiving failure-to-deposit penalties for federal payroll and excise tax deposits normally due on or after the disaster area start date and a delayed payment date. The delayed payment date is now set as November 26, 2012.
  • Not in the Area? Relief is also available to a business or entity that is not located in the Declared Disaster Area but is impacted by the storm because the books, records, or tax professional is located within the disaster area. This includes those who are assisting in disaster relief activity. To receive this assistance you must contact the IRS directly (866-562-5227).
  • Other Assistance. There are numerous programs available to those in need. The help includes grants for temporary housing, grants for home repairs, low-cost loans for uninsured property loses, and Transitional Housing Assistance.

Fortunately, to receive much of the aid outlined here you do not need to contact the IRS for approvals. The benefits are applied automatically. So, if you have been impacted by Sandy, or know of someone who has been impacted, please help get the word out.

For assistance with this or other tax or accounting matters please contact us at 201-947-8081 or 646-688-2807, or email us at    info@ourcpas.com.

 

 

 

 

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