Get Started: Tax help for small businesses hit by Harvey and Irma

AFP AFP_SI3NT I DIS FRA ST

The IRS has extended filing deadlines for taxpayers including businesses located in areas hit hard by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The tax relief is available in federally declared disaster areas in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Taxpayers who got extensions of the April filing deadline for their 2016 income tax returns now have until Jan. 31 to file their returns; they had been due Oct. 16. Taxpayers required to make estimated tax payments on Sept. 15 and Jan. 16 now have until Jan. 31 to make those payments.

And companies' quarterly payroll and excise tax returns due Oct. 31 may also now be delayed until Jan. 31.

The IRS will not assess late filing or payment penalties on these taxpayers.

Tax relief is also available to workers covered by 401(k) and similar employer-sponsored retirement plans in these disaster areas. Employers are allowed to relax and streamline rules and procedures for staffers to take out loans against their retirement accounts or make hardship withdrawals. The withdrawals must be made by Jan. 31.

More information about the hurricane-related tax relief is available on the IRS website, www.irs.gov .

Florida officials reported on Thursday that 22% of homes and businesses were still without power. About 65% did not have power just after Irma. Florida's largest utility hopes to restore service for all of its east coast customers by Sunday. (Sept. 15) AP

Waning optimism?

Small business owners are more pessimistic about the economy and less likely to hire than they were at the end of last year, according to a survey released by the National Small Business Association.

Forty-five percent of the 1,134 owners surveyed in July and August expect the economy to expand in the next 12 months, down from 54% in a survey taken in December. The number of owners expecting the economy to remain the same was 45%, up from 34%. Ten percent expect a recession, down from 12%.

That dip in optimism was reflected in owners' expectations for growth opportunities for their companies. Eight percent said they foresee opportunities in the next three months, down from 11% in December. Fourteen percent see opportunities in the next three to 6 months, versus 18%. There was little change among those forecasting growth opportunities in the next six months to a year — 30% versus 31%

Hiring plans also showed the caution. Thirty-seven percent said they expect to increase their payroll in the next 12 months, compared to 43 percent at the end of 2016.

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