The Internal Revenue Service said that Texas taxpayers harmed by Hurricane Ike qualify for tax relief and can postpone their tax-filing and payment deadlines until Jan. 5, 2009.

As the storm made its way to Texas, the IRS postponed the deadline by just a week, until Sept. 22, but indicated it was likely to push back the deadline further (see IRS Extends Tax Deadlines for Hurricane Ike).

After the hurricane made landfall on Sept. 13 and spread devastation across a wide swath of the state, the federal government declared the following Texas counties a disaster area: Angelina, Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Cherokee, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Hardin, Harris, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison, Matagorda, Montgomery, Nacogdoches, Newton, Orange, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Trinity, Tyler, Walker, Waller and Washington.

"We are giving taxpayers in these hard-hit areas until early next year to file their returns and make payments," IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman (pictured) said in a statement. "All Americans have concerns for those affected by this devastating hurricane, and our hope is that this extra time will allow people to stay focused on the rebuilding and clean-up effort."

The postponement includes both individual estimated and corporate tax returns that were due Sept. 15, and extended individual returns due Oct. 15.

Wayne McConnell, managing partner of McConnell Jones Lanier & Murphy LLP, in Houston, welcomes the postponement. "The IRS has issued a few revenue procedures providing extensions of times to file," he said. "We are in pretty good shape, but it's good to know you have that extra time if you need it."

In addition, the IRS will waive the failure-to-deposit penalties for employment and excise deposits due on or after Sept. 7 and before Sept. 22, 2008, as long as the deposits are made on or before Sept. 22.

The IRS said its computer systems would automatically identify taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and apply automatic filing and payment relief. Affected taxpayers who reside or have a business located outside the covered disaster area must call the IRS disaster hotline at (866) 562-5227 to request tax relief. If an affected taxpayer receives a penalty notice from the IRS, the taxpayer should call the telephone number on the notice to have the IRS abate any interest and any late filing or late payment penalties.

Affected taxpayers in a presidentially declared disaster area have the option of claiming disaster-related casualty losses on their federal income tax return for either this year or last year. Claiming the loss on an original or amended return for last year will get the taxpayer an earlier refund, but waiting to claim the loss on this year's return could result in a greater tax saving, depending on other income factors.

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