This is a different type of blog than I usually write, and I am thankful for that. Sometimes, though, unavoidable tragedies happen, and they have to be mentioned. Unfortunately, one of those times is happening now, and will be happening for a while, as the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey move through their recovery phase.
These times shock us with trying images as we see levels of devastation that defy imagination. At the same time, though, they also bring us inspiring images. We get to see the levels of human will that can be reached when a community bands together to help each other and return their lives to as close to normal as possible. We also get to see the level of human compassion reached when those from afar do what they can to achieve the same lofty goals.
So before going through many of the implications of this, I first just urge everyone to donate to the cause if you can. I know that many of the times I write about giving to charities, it is in relation to how it affects your tax picture, but moments like this are reminders of the human reality behind it. Good is done by giving to others who find themselves in need. Sometimes we only think of these things as numbers, but it is so much more than that.
At the same time, though, the IRS has put out a notice to be wary of those putting together scams and only pretending to be gathering money for the cause. There are plenty of obviously reputable charities doing good works, though, so please don’t be that wary. Just remember that if something feels fishy, it probably is. But all those other groups out there who don’t feel fishy, the charities that you we see doing great things, they are worthy of our attention.
Let it also be known that the IRS has announced that 401(k)s and similar employer-sponsored retirement plans can make loans and hardship distributions to victims of the storm and their families. I don’t want to get into the minutiae of it here, but know that more information on this, and much of the other information in this blog, can be found at the IRS Hurricane Harvey Information center located online here. There is also a program where employees can forgo vacation, sick, or personal leave time in exchange for their employers making donations to charitable organizations working to help those affected by the disaster.
I think there are a couple of other highlights from the tax realm that are worth noting. First is that those affected get some tax relief in how long they have to file certain individual and business tax returns, as well as in making certain tax payments. This includes an additional filing extension for individual taxpayers with valid extensions that run out on October 16 and businesses who were to have filed on September 15.
Also, the IRS has waived a diesel fuel penalty for the entire state of Texas.
Granted, all this is far down on the list of importance for those who have had their life upended by something totally out of their control. But in those times, hopefully enough pieces of light can come together to start making life bright again.
To ensure we don't make the folks at the IRS ornery, we inform you that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.