Relief From Federal Regulators

Treasury Dept., IRS, and SEC providing tax breaks and regulatory relief to those affected by Katrina

The Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service, and the Securities and Exchange Commission are providing tax breaks and regulatory relief to those individuals and companies affected by Hurricane Katrina.

The IRS has extended the September tax filing and payment deadlines until October 31 for those areas ravaged by Katrina, which includes 31 parishes in Louisiana, 15 counties in Mississippi, three counties in Alabama, and some parts of Florida. The tax relief includes the September 15 due date for estimated taxes and for calendar-year corporate returns with automatic extensions.

The IRS has also relaxed income requirements for low-income housing "so that victims of Hurricane Katrina can take refuge in any housing available regardless of income," Treasury Secretary John Snow said in recent speech. He also said Treasury is working to ensure the Postal Service is running smoothly and that those affected continue to receive their Social Security checks on time.

The IRS has also set up a toll-free disaster hotline, 866-562-5227, for people to call to get information about tax relief and to get free copies of their tax return transcripts. The IRS has partnered with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) to provide taxpayer assistance at disaster relief centers set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The SEC divisions and offices that oversee publicly traded companies, accountants, mutual funds, brokerage firms, and transfer agents, among others, are extending the filing deadlines and suspension of requirements to deliver documents from hurricane-affected areas. The SEC will also provide a mechanism that allows broker/dealers to provide access to accounts held at offices that are no longer operable. The SEC's Division of Enforcement is also on the lookout for securities scams, and is asking investors to forward suspicious solicitations to enforcement@sec.gov. The SEC has also set up telephone and e-mail hotlines for other urgent matters. The phone number is 202-551-3300; e-mail is cfhotline@sec.gov.

In addition, the SEC has set up a Web site directory to help victims contact their investment advisor. The alternate Web site information will contain telephone numbers, alternate business addresses, and e-mail addresses as provided by the firms on a voluntary basis, the SEC says. The site, www.sec.gov/katrina.htm, will be updated daily.

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