When Hurricane Ian tore across Florida last week, it upended the lives of millions, sending their financial futures spiraling into the unknown. While governments at the local, state and federal levels have since taken steps to cushion the monetary blow, more can be done — particularly when it comes to taxes, according to the nonprofit Tallahassee-based think tank, Florida TaxWatch.
On Friday, the group issued a list of nine recommendations Florida should take to help taxpayers impacted by the storm.
“Florida TaxWatch, along with our board of trustees and partners, is committed to finding ways to keep this natural disaster from evolving into a long-term financial disaster,” Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro said in a statement.
“As we do whenever Florida faces a disaster or crisis, we are planning for Hurricane Ian recovery, working with the Governor, state Legislature, local leaders, the Florida Department of Revenue, and the Internal Revenue Service to find effective solutions as we rebuild homes, repair infrastructure, and combat financial struggles.”
The nine actions Florida TaxWatch recommends include:
— Postponing tax notices and waiving penalties for late tax filings in affected areas.
— Extending the date for residents to take advantage of the tax discounts they would normally receive for paying property taxes and special assessments in November and postponing or deferring the deadline for property tax installment payments.
— Protecting individual and business taxpayers from risks for notices they will likely not receive because their home or business address is not accessible anymore.
— Issuing no new audits in severely impacted areas, extending the statute of limitations and postponing existing audits that haven’t reached the assessment stage because they can’t be responded to while entire communities are still recovering.
— Creating procedures for fairly estimating taxes that can’t be calculated because the storm destroyed records instead of using the current method, which significantly overestimates activity if no records are available.
— Initiating procedures to offer payment plan assistance for late taxes rather than resorting to the standard collection methods like liens, levies or bank freezes.
— Retroactively applying the recently passed law that provides property tax refunds for residential property rendered uninhabitable as a result of a catastrophic event.
— Providing tangible personal property relief and allowing non-residential properties rendered uninhabitable to receive property tax refunds.
— Getting Congress to pass a disaster tax relief act that includes provisions from past packages, including elements such as an employment retention credit, an enhanced casualty loss deduction and other relief provisions.
Hurricane Ian made landfall as a near-Category 5 storm Oct. 28, bringing torrential rain, tornadoes and massive storm surges that flooded a large swath of states along the Gulf Shore. The storm is among the deadliest and costliest to ever strike the state, with more than 100 people confirmed dead and an estimated damage of between $41 billion and $70 billion.