A traffic accident above the San Francisco Bay could affect up to an estimated 30,000 taxpayers in 13 states.

A number of checks, most believed to cover estimated taxes from the self-employed, were lost on Sept. 11, when a truck carrying them to an Internal Revenue Service lockbox was involved in an accident on the San Mateo Bridge. Wind blew away an estimated 30,000 pieces of mail, many ending up in the bay.

Taxpayers in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming are among those who could be affected. The IRS believes most of the missing mail includes estimated tax payments due on Sept. 15, and will waive penalties and interest for anyone whose payment was effected. In the meantime, taxpayers who sent checks to P.O. Box 510000 in San Francisco during the first 10 days of September should wait until October to see if their checks clear before contacting the IRS.

People normally pre-pay estimated taxes if they are self-employed, in order to avoid penalties during the April filing season. Other estimated taxpayers may have significant investment income, win the lottery or receive other money that isn't subject to normal withholding.

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