The Internal Revenue Service announced relief for taxpayers affected by Hurricane Rita, including many of the deadline reprieves and fee waivers enacted in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Major disaster declarations covering Texas and Louisiana became effective Sept. 23 under presidential order, and taxpayers in affected area may be eligible for relief. The IRS has postponed deadlines and will abate interest and any late-filing, late-payment or failure-to-deposit penalties that would otherwise apply for any tax return, tax payment or tax deposit. Deadlines for affected taxpayers to file returns, pay taxes and perform other time-sensitive acts have been postponed to Feb. 28, 2006, the same extension Congress granted to taxpayers affected by Katrina.

In the hardest-hit areas -- counties designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as "individual assistance areas" -- tax relief will be automatic, and taxpayers won't need to do anything to get the extensions and other available relief. In Texas, nine counties fall into the category, including: Chambers, Galveston, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton, Orange and Tyler. In Louisiana, five parishes received the designation, including: Beauregard, Cameron, Calcasieu, Jefferson Davis and Vermilion.

In areas of Texas and Louisiana where FEMA has determined damage is more isolated -- designated as "public assistance areas" -- or for taxpayers outside the hardest-hit areas whose books, records or tax professionals are located in the affected areas, people will need to identify themselves to the IRS as hurricane victims.

The full release is available at www.irs.gov.

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