The Internal Revenue Service said Tuesday that Hurricane Irma victims in parts of Florida and other areas have until Jan. 31, 2018, to file some individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments.

The tax relief granted Tuesday by the IRS parallels the kind it gave last month to victims of Hurricane Harvey that battered Texas and other parts of the Gulf Coast. That includes an additional filing extension for taxpayers with valid extensions that run out on Oct. 16, and businesses with extensions that run out on Sept. 15.

"This has been a devastating storm for the Southeastern part of the country, and the IRS will move quickly to provide tax relief for victims, just as we did following Hurricane Harvey," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a statement. "The IRS will continue to closely monitor the storm's aftermath, and we anticipate providing additional relief for other affected areas in the near future."

A resident collects personal belongings from his flooded home in Bonita Springs, Florida, after Hurricane Irma.
A resident collects personal belongings from his flooded home in Bonita Springs, Florida, after Hurricane Irma. Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

The IRS is giving the relief to any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as qualifying for individual assistance. Parts of Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are currently eligible, but taxpayers in localities added later to the disaster area, including those in other states, will automatically receive the same filing and payment relief. The IRS announced relief for the Virgin Islands on Friday (see IRS provides relief to Hurricane Irma victims). The latest list of eligible localities can be found on the IRS’s disaster relief web page.

The tax relief delays several tax filing and payment deadlines that happened starting on Sept. 4, 2017 in Florida and Sept. 5, 2017 in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will get until Jan. 31, 2018, to file their tax returns and pay any taxes that originally came due during that period.

That includes both the Sept. 15, 2017 and Jan. 16, 2018 deadlines for making quarterly estimated tax payments. For individual tax filers, it also encompasses 2016 income tax returns that got a tax-filing extension until Oct. 16, 2017. The IRS pointed out, though, that because tax payments stemming from the 2016 returns originally came due on April 18, 2017, those payments aren’t eligible for this type of relief.

Several business tax deadlines are also impacted, including the Oct. 31 deadline for quarterly payroll and excise tax returns. Businesses with extensions also get more time including, among others, calendar-year partnerships whose 2016 extensions end on Sept. 15, 2017 and calendar-year tax-exempt organizations whose 2016 extensions run out Nov. 15, 2017. The disaster relief page includes details on other returns, payments and tax-related actions that are eligible for the extra time.

On top of that, the IRS is waiving late-deposit penalties for federal payroll and excise tax deposits typically due during the first 15 days of the disaster period. The IRS.gov disaster relief page spells out the time periods applicable for each jurisdiction.

The IRS noted that it automatically provides filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in the disaster area. Therefore, taxpayers don’t need to contact the IRS to get the relief. But if affected taxpayers get a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date happening during the postponement period, they should dial the phone number on the notice to ask the IRS to abate the penalty.

The IRS said it will work with any taxpayer who lives outside the disaster area but whose records are located in the affected area and they are needed to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period. Taxpayers qualifying for relief who live outside the disaster area should call the IRS at 866-562-5227. That includes workers helping with relief activities who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization.

Individuals and businesses who have suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses can opt to claim them on either the return for the year the loss occurred (in this case, the 2017 tax return typically filed next year), or the tax return for the previous year (2016). Check out Publication 547 for details.

The IRS’s tax relief is part of a coordinated federal response to the hurricane, and it has set up a dedicated web page at www.irs.gov/hurricaneirma . For general information on disaster recovery, go to disasterassistance.gov. For information on government-wide efforts specifically related to Hurricane Irma, visit www.USA.gov/hurricane-irma.

Also on Tuesday, the IRS issued an update to Notice 2017-47, which provides penalty relief to certain partnerships that filed untimely returns or requests for extensions of time to file those returns. The updated notice now applies to both partnerships and real estate mortgage investment conduits, or REMICs, which are treated as partnerships for purposes of subtitle F of the Tax Code dealing with procedure and administration. Partnerships and REMICs that filed certain untimely returns or untimely requests for extension of time to file those returns for the first taxable year that started after Dec. 31, 2015, by the fifteenth day of the fourth month following the close of that taxable year will receive relief from the penalty for failure to timely file.

Diesel Fuel Penalty

Separately, the IRS said Tuesday that in response to shortages of undyed diesel fuel caused by Hurricane Irma, it won’t impose a penalty when dyed diesel fuel is sold for use or used on the highway in the state of Florida.

The relief is effective as of Sept. 6, 2017. The relief is consistent with the Environmental Protection Agency waiver for Florida regarding use of Non-Road Diesel Locomotive and Marine Fuel, and the IRS said the relief would remain in effect through Sept. 22, 2017.

The penalty relief is available to anyone who sells or uses dyed fuel for highway use. In cases involving operators of vehicles in which dyed fuel is used, the relief is available only if the operator or the person selling the fuel pays the 24.4 cents per gallon tax typically applied. The IRS won’t impose penalties for failure to make semimonthly deposits of this tax. IRS Publication 510, Excise Taxes, contains more details on the correct method for reporting and paying the tax.

Typically, dyed diesel fuel isn’t taxed because it’s sold for uses exempt from excise tax, such as for farming, home heating use and local government buses.

The waiver doesn’t apply to the tax penalty for using adulterated fuels that don’t comply with applicable EPA regulations. That means diesel fuel with sulfur content higher than 15 parts-per-million can’t be used in highway vehicles. The IRS added that it is closely monitoring the situation and will provide additional relief as needed.

Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn, editor-in-chief of AccountingToday.com, has been covering business and technology for a variety of publications since 1985.