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After a natural disaster like a hurricane, flood or wildfire, small businesses struggle to cope with the fallout. Even if your company isn’t directly in the path of the destruction, your employees or customers could suffer losses that create major chaos for the company. But don’t let a natural disaster become an even bigger financial disaster. Here’s how to handle costly penalties from the IRS.

How Does a Natural Disaster Cause Concerns About Taxes?

In the wake of a catastrophe, businesses must focus on solving a wide range of urgent issues, like structural damage, data recovery, security risks, inventory loss and employee absences. Routine financial matters often take a back seat to these immediate challenges. Unfortunately, the IRS is not aware of any difficulties you’re facing because of a natural disaster. A missed tax filing deadline is still a serious matter.

Doesn’t the IRS Care That We are Dealing with the Aftermath of a Natural Disaster?

The IRS tries to show mercy and offers you an opportunity to claim reasonable cause for your failure to file on time. Official examples of reasonable causes include death or serious illness, fire, natural disasters and inability to obtain necessary documentation due to extreme situations. Consult with your tax attorney about how to describe your reasonable cause to the IRS, because word phrasing is important. The Supreme Court has ruled that certain rationales, such as “I didn’t know what was going on,” or “It was my tax preparer’s fault” aren’t viable, because the ultimate responsibility to file taxes on time is yours.

What if We Just Realized We Have a Tax Problem?

The first step is to get good advice from a tax attorney. Don’t ignore the problem or let it get worse; act as soon as you realize the missed deadline or other error. Every month brings additional costly penalties. Gather your documents, contact the IRS to confirm your options due to reasonable cause and work with your tax attorney to resolve the issue.

Is There Anything We Can Do About a Missed Deadline?

In a word: Yes. The IRS does offer some options if you’ve already missed an all-important tax filing deadline due to a natural disaster. If it’s the first time it’s ever happened, they may give you a one-time forgiveness called an abate without penalty. For partnerships, you can also ask the IRS about something called partnership relief, which is another non-penalty route. But don’t count on these penalty-free options. The IRS may apply a late penalty at their discretion.

If We Have to Pay a Penalty, What Could It Cost?

In terms of a missed filing deadline, for an individual or C corporation return, you’ll pay a 5% penalty on tax owed per month the return is left unfiled, up to 25%. For a partnership or S corporation, the penalty is $2,000 per shareholder per month, with a maximum of 12 months. There could also be other penalties depending on your exact tax situation. Most post-disaster tax problems can be cleared up quickly, as long as you have access to your company data and documents.

Dutton Legal Group – Indiana’s Tax Resolution Law Firm

The Dutton Legal Group helps the people and businesses of Indiana navigate ever-changing State and Federal tax codes. Our goal as experienced tax attorneys is to assist you in finding an immediate, cost-effective answer to your tax challenges. We provide a variety of tax services from balance resolution and return preparation to wage garnishment relief and audit assistance. Make Dutton Legal Group your next call at 1-800-334-0255 or send an email to request a free consultation. Trustworthy and affordable, for over 15 years.