South Carolina was battered by some of the worst flooding the region has seen in history, submerging thousands of cars, flooding out entire towns and leaving a lot of residents in need of relief in 2015. After the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared a federal disaster area in 24 counties, the IRS determined individuals and businesses with an address in one of the affected counties, as well as relief workers, are eligible for special tax relief that includes deadline extensions and waivers for late fees, penalties and interest.
Determining Eligibility for Tax Relief
The first step is to determine if you're eligible for special tax relief. The affected South Carolina counties in the federal disaster area are: Bamberg, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dorchester, Fairfield, Florence, Georgetown, Greenville, Greenwood, Horry, Kershaw, Lee, Lexington, Marion, Newberry, Orangeburg, Richland, Spartanburg, Sumter and Williamsburg.
This also applies to:
- Anyone with a tax-filing address in one of these counties.
- Affected businesses with addresses in these counties.
- Flood relief workers affiliated with a recognized relief organization, regardless of where they live.
If you're still unsure, visit the federal disaster assistance website and enter your street address for information on tax and other government relief for which you may qualify.
Taking Advantage of Tax Relief
Individuals and businesses affected by flooding in the designated counties don't need to file any special forms to take advantage of this tax relief, as long as the address used to file a tax return is located in one of the affected counties.
If you don't live in one these counties, but the records you need to prepare your tax return were located in one of them, you must:
- Contact the IRS directly to become eligible.
- Eligible relief workers must identify themselves by writing "South Carolina, Severe Storms and Flooding" in red ink at the top of their tax returns.
2014 Extended Deadlines Changed
If you originally filed Form 4868 to get a tax extension for filing your 2014 return, your deadline was October 15, 2015. Due to the severe flooding, that deadline has been extended to February 16, 2016.
You won't have to pay any late filing fees or penalties as long as you file your 2014 return by that date. Businesses that filed for an extension to file their returns also have until February 16, 2016, to do so.
Quarterly Estimated Return Deadlines Changed
If you are self-employed and file quarterly estimated tax payments, deadlines also have changed.
- The payment that would normally be due on January 15, 2016, is now due on February 16, 2016.
- You will not have to pay any penalties or late filing fees as long as you file your return and pay the taxes owed by February 16.
Quarterly Federal Payroll and Excise Tax Deadlines for Businesses
Deadlines for businesses to pay quarterly federal payroll and excise taxes have not changed, with one exception.
- A business with an October 1, 2015, deadline for paying quarterly federal payroll and excise taxes won't incur any late fees, interest or penalties as long as the taxes are paid by October 16, 2015.
- Quarterly returns normally due on November 2, 2015, and February 1, 2016, are now due by February 16, 2016.
Documenting a Casualty Loss
If you suffered a financial loss that wasn't reimbursed by insurance coverage due to the flooding, you may be able to claim a casualty loss on your income tax return.
- Take inventory of your personal property to identify lost items and take pictures of damaged items.
- Consult the IRS Publication 584, Casualty, Disaster and Theft Loss Workbook, which provides worksheets and instructions to help document your loss when you file your tax return.
Claiming a Casualty Loss
Because the area affected by the flooding was declared a federal disaster area, you have the option to claim a casualty loss by amending your 2014 return, or wait until you file your 2015 tax return.
Amending your 2014 return might provide you with a refund faster than if you waited until 2016, but claiming the loss on your 2015 tax return might provide you with a larger tax refund, depending on the amount of your income in each of the years.
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