Disaster Relief Assistance: Hurricanes
Within the last month, the United States has been devastated by some of the strongest hurricanes to have ever hit U.S. soil. Beginning in Texas, Hurricane Harvey—which was recorded as the wettest tropical hurricane on record in the contiguous United States—brought over 40 inches of rain to parts of the state. On the East Coast, Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida and surrounding areas, including Cuba, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas, bringing with it catastrophic damage to the affected areas. Following closely behind, Hurricane Maria—which hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm—caused some of the most severe damage in recent history.
In addition to the widespread disaster relief assistance made immediately available when we’re faced with natural disasters, various United States government agencies and the Internal Revenue Service also have certain safeguards in place to help victims of such disasters get back to their normal day-to-day lives as quickly as possible.
FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
The Federal Emergency Agency (FEMA) is one such agency that has been heavily responsible for providing aide to the general population in the designated Texas counties that are home to victims of Hurricane Harvey. If you live in one of the designated counties affected by one of these storms and you’ve suffered losses to your property as a result, the first thing you should do after assessing your damage is to apply for assistance. The federal government has set up a Disaster Assistance Portal through which disaster victims can access help and resources for their specific areas and scenarios.
NATIONAL FLOOD INSURANCE PROGRAM
Flood insurance is available and is federally backed by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP is available to homeowners, renters and businesses. The National Flood Insurance Act was passed in 1968; the NFIP was developed in response to the lack of availability of flood insurance from private insurers. Specific information detailing how to obtain flood insurance can be found on the NFIP website.
If you’ve suffered flood damage and need to file a claim, FEMA recommends taking pictures or videos. In preparing for a storm, you should ideally take pre-storm pictures to document the condition of your property before the loss, as well as pictures immediately after the loss, and during all stages of repairs. Capture waterlines and damage to property (both the interior and exterior) before you remove items from your property.
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE ASSISTANCE
In addition to the many resources for disaster relief victims made available through U.S. government agencies and nonprofit organizations, the IRS itself provides significant tax relief for victims of these hurricanes. For example, the IRS has extended the 9/15/17 business tax return filing deadline and the 10/15/17 individual tax return filing deadline for U.S. hurricane victims to January 31, 2018 (assuming they had already filed a valid extension to complete their 2016 tax returns). If you think you might be eligible for this deadline extension, please consult the IRS to find out if your address qualifies.
Another form of assistance the IRS has made available to hurricane victims is the option for people who experienced casualty losses to claim those losses on their 2016 tax returns (if they have not yet been filed). In other words, victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria do not have to wait to claim their casualty losses within their 2017 tax returns, and can claim them in the current year’s tax return by filing Form 4684. The IRS will also expedite the processing of your refund as long as you state the Disaster Designation on your return (i.e. “Florida, Hurricane Irma”).
ADDITIONAL FORMS OF ASSISTANCE
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low interest loans to disaster impacted individuals and small businesses. For more information click here.
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has disaster relief options for FHA homeowners, specifically meant for those who have trouble making mortgage payments as a result of these natural disasters. For more information click here.
FEMA also provides relief under the Individuals and Households Program (IHP). The program provides financial and/or direct assistance to eligible applicants who, as a result of a major disaster or emergency, have necessary expenses and serious needs that are unmet through insurance or other means. For more information click here.
For further information on the disaster relief assistance programs for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria, or for other disasters within the United States, please see our list of useful links below. For general inquiries or information about our services, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 245-5900.
DISASTER RELIEF INFORMATION – USEFUL LINKS:
- FEMA – Hurricane Harvey
- FEMA – Hurricane Irma
- FEMA – Hurricane Maria
- FEMA – How to File a Flood Claim
- IRS – Hurricane Harvey
- IRS – Hurricanes Irma & Maria
- NFIP – National Flood Insurance Program
- Federal Info – Hurricane Harvey
- Federal Info – Hurricane Irma
- Federal Info – Hurricane Maria
Jonathan Niyazov, CPA is a Tax Manager with FF&F. He has over 9 years of combined tax and accounting experience compromised in both, closely held private companies, and large international accounting firms. Jonathan has a strong background in individual, corporate, and partnership taxation. His experience in the private and public sectors grants him a unique understanding of taxation that provides our clients with tax savings strategies at every level.