Disaster victims may qualify for special state tax relief

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 3, 2006

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana residents who were suffered losses from Hurricanes Katrina may be eligible for special tax relief under legislation passed earlier this year. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Louisiana Department of Revenue urge Louisiana taxpayers to contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or a local tax professional to take advantage of these benefits.

Tax relief is available to individuals throughout Louisiana, though some relief is specifically targeted to individuals in the most severely impacted areas. Relief is available for both individuals and business owners, and includes:

The ability to withdraw up to $100,000 without penalty from certain retirement accounts.

Filers who itemize do not have to deduct 10 percent of their adjusted gross income and a $100 deductible to claim disaster losses. Filers can claim up to the full amount of the loss.

An option to file an amended 2004 return, or to claim your losses on your 2005 tax return.

The Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005 also provides tax relief for individuals who provided assistance to disaster victims. Individuals who took in hurricane victims are also eligible for tax relief. This includes a $500 deduction for each person they housed for at least 60 days, up to $2,000 dollars per year. The act also raises the rate for mileage deductions for the use of personal vehicles for charitable purposes and lifts the cap on charitable deductions made through the end of 2005.

Taxpayers in the most severely affected parishes also have extended deadlines to file amended returns or quarterly taxes. For specific information about what tax benefits are available to each individual, FEMA encourages Louisianians to contact the IRS at www.irs.gov or at a toll-free hotline established to help hurricane victims with tax matters, 1-866-562-5227.

FEMA prepares the nation for all hazards and manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, trains first responders, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program.