Preparedness Steps in Advance Of Hurricane Florence

Preparedness Steps in Advance Of Hurricane Florence

The South Carolina Association of CPAs wants our members to be aware we are monitoring weather forecasts for Hurricane Florence and its possible effects on SCACPA functions and emergency preparedness throughout the week.

SCACPA recognizes that Hurricane Florence has the potential to significantly impact areas of South Carolina, and we will be reaching out to legislators, SC DOR and the IRS about tax relief as needed.

As of Monday, Sept. 10, Gov. Henry McMaster has declared a state of emergency and has submitted a request for a Federal Emergency Declaration in anticipation of any possible impacts from Hurricane Florence. It was approved by President Trump later that day. McMaster has ordered evacuations for the coast beginning noon Tuesday, and lane reversals on major roads will facilitate the evacuations. State offices and schools will be closed in affected counties.

In light of Tuesday’s mandatory evacuations along the South Carolina coast, SCACPA has reached out to the SC DOR and the Governor’s Office to communicate the need for tax filing extensions for the deadlines of Monday, Sept. 17. We will be sure to share their decision once it is announced.

While we hope Hurricane Florence will greatly diminish on its path, we will err on the side of caution and begin preparations for any disruptions.  Watch this page and SCACPA social media for developments.

THE IMPORTANCE OF A FEDERALLY DECLARED DISASTER AREA

Taxpayers who are seeking relief by the IRS must first be in a locale designated as a covered disaster area that is federally declared. Areas can retroactively be designated as a covered disaster area, and SCACPA has previously worked to get areas eligible in the wake of Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.

Under Code Sec. 165(i)(5), “Federally Declared Disaster” mean any disaster determined by the President of the United States to warrant assistance by the Federal government. The IRS will include within the scope of its relief any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Certain casualty loss deductions offered directly under Code Sec. 165 are available irrespective of designation as a disaster area by the IRS.

WHAT IS AN AFFECTED TAXPAYER? (Go to www.irs.gov for more details)

A taxpayer does not have to be located in a Federally Declared Disaster Area to be an “affected taxpayer.” Taxpayers are “affected” if records necessary to meet a filing or payment deadline postponed during the relief period are located in a covered disaster area.

An affected taxpayer can be:

  • An individual
  • Any business entity or sole proprietor
  • Any shareholder in an S Corporation

DISASTER RELIEF CAN APPLY IF THE TAX PREPARER IS IN A DISASTER AREA BUT THE CLIENT IS NOT

Disaster relief applies to tax preparers who are unable to file returns or make payments on behalf of the client because of the disaster. Therefore, if you are a taxpayer outside of the disaster area, you may qualify for relief if:

  • your preparer is in the disaster area, and
  • the preparer is unable to file or pay on your behalf.

If the affected partnership or S Corp cannot provide you the records necessary to file your return, you are an affected taxpayer. Your filing and payment deadlines are postponed until the end of the postponement period just like the affected partnership or S Corp.

FEMA’S INDIVIDUAL ASSISTANCE VS. PUBLIC ASSISTANCE

The Stafford Act provides for two types of disaster declarations: Emergency Declarations and Major Disaster Declarations. Both declaration types authorize the President to provide supplemental federal disaster assistance.

Emergency Declarations: The President can declare an emergency for any instance when the President determines federal assistance is needed. Emergency Declarations supplement State and local or Indian tribal government efforts in providing emergency services, such as the protection of lives, property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States.

Major Disaster Declarations: The President can declare a major disaster for any natural event, such as hurricane, tornados, storms or high waters, that the President determines has caused damage of such severity that it is beyond the combined capabilities of state and local governments to respond.  A major disaster declaration provides a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure.

The Governor of the affected State must submit the request to the President through the appropriate Regional Administrator within 30 days of the occurrence of the incident.

Assistance Available Under Major Disaster Declarations: Not all programs are activated for every disaster. The determination of which programs are authorized is based on the types of assistance specified in the Governor’s request and the needs identified during the joint Preliminary Damage Assessment and subsequent PDAs.  FEMA disaster assistance programs are as follows:

Individual Assistance – Assistance to individuals and households, which may include the Individuals and Households Program, Disaster Case Management, Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Disaster Legal Services.

Public Assistance – Assistance to State, Tribal, and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities, which may include debris removal, emergency protective measures, roads and bridges, utilities, water control facilities, buildings and equipment.

The IRS advises that individuals and businesses in Federally Declared Disaster Areas can get faster refunds by claiming disaster losses on their tax return for the prior year, and this can be done by filing an amended return.

The IRS does not grant extra time to file returns and pay taxes in every disaster.

Click here for an IRS overview of Tax Relief for Presidentially Declared Disaster Areas.

You can consult the guidance the IRS has given on tax relief for recent disasters, such as the California Wildfires, Hurricane Irma and Maria, and Hurricane Harvey.

HAVE A PLAN BEFORE DISASTER STRIKES:

  1. Document your valuables before the disaster occurs. Create lists, videos, or use pictures to ensure you have a complete list. IRS Publication 584 can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings.
  2. Your IT infrastructure systems and on-site services site will likely fail during the disaster making them unavailable. When possible, utilize online or cloud-based services to hold your data and ensure ongoing communications.
  3. Build a plan for temporary office space or remote working solutions to aid in your recovery efforts.

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