IRS offers tax relief to Hurricane Sandy victims

Following recent disaster declarations for individual assistance issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced additional tax relief for taxpayers in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island affected by Hurricane Sandy. Other locations may be added based on additional damage assessments conducted by FEMA.

The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred beginning in late October 2012. Affected individuals and businesses will have until Feb. 1 to file returns and pay any taxes due, including fourth-quarter or individual estimated tax payments normally due Jan. 15. The Feb. 1 extension also applies to payroll and excise tax returns and accompanying payments for the third and fourth quarters normally due Oct. 31, 2012, and Jan. 31, 2013, respectively, and tax-exempt organizations required to file Form 990 series returns with an original or extended deadline falling during this period.

The IRS will abate any interest, late-payment or late-filing penalty that otherwise would apply. The IRS automatically provides this relief to any taxpayer located in the disaster areas. Taxpayers do not need to contact the IRS to get relief.

Beyond the relief provided to taxpayers in FEMA-designated counties, the IRS will work with any taxpayer who resides outside the disaster areas but whose books, records or tax professional are located in the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. All workers assisting with relief activities in the covered disaster areas who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization are eligible for relief. Taxpayers who live outside the affected areas and believe they may qualify should contact the IRS at (866) 562-5227.

Additionally, the IRS has announced 401(k) plans and similar employer-sponsored retirement plans can make loans and hardship distributions to victims of Hurricane Sandy and their family members.

401(k) plan participants, employees of public schools and tax-exempt organizations with 403(b) tax-sheltered annuities, and state and local government employees with 457(b) deferred-compensation plans may be eligible to take advantage of these streamlined loan procedures and liberalized hardship distribution rules. Although individual retirement account participants are not allowed to take out loans, they may be eligible to receive distributions.

Retirement plans can provide relief to employees and certain members of their families who live or work in the disaster areas. To qualify for relief, hardship withdrawals must be made by Feb. 1.

The IRS also is relaxing procedural and administrative rules that usually would apply to retirement plan loans and hardship distributions. As a result, eligible retirement plan participants will be able to access their money more quickly. Also, the six-month ban on 401(k) and 403(b) contributions that typically affects employees who take hardship distributions will not apply.

This broad-based relief means a retirement plan can allow a Hurricane Sandy victim to take a hardship distribution or borrow up to the specified statutory limits from the victim's retirement plan. It also means a person who lives outside the disaster areas can take out a retirement plan loan or hardship distribution and use it to assist a son, daughter, parent, grandparent or other dependent who lived or worked in the disaster areas.

A plan will be allowed to make loans or hardship distributions before it is formally amended to provide for such features. The plan also can ignore the limits usually applied to hardship distributions, allowing them, for example, to be used for food and shelter. If a plan requires certain documentation before a distribution is made, the plan can relax this requirement as described in Announcement 2012-44 available at www.irs.gov.

Chemical Safety Board features hot-work videos

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board features two videos of particular interest to roofing contractors on its website, www.csb.gov. The videos focus on dangers involved when performing hot work at processing facilities.

The first video, "Hot Work: Hidden Hazards," discusses an explosion that killed two contract workers performing welding work at DuPont,™ Buffalo, N.Y. It especially is significant for those who perform torch work using polymer-modified bitumen but also provides valuable information for others. The second video, "Combustible Dust: An Insidious Hazard," discusses issues related to hazards at plants where concentrations of dust from processing various materials can lead to fires and explosions. The video discusses an explosion at Imperial® Sugar Co. in Port Wentworth, Ga., that killed 14 people. The videos are free to download from www.csb.gov/videoroom.

OSHA offers winter storm guide

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) website, www.osha.gov, features an emergency preparedness guide to help workers understand how winter storms may affect their health and safety.

The guide features general information about the various types of winter storms and where each type most commonly occurs, as well as the various public warnings for winter weather and their meanings. It also addresses worker safety and health issues, such as which workers are at increased risk of injury during winter storms; injuries associated with winter storms; windchill factor; symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia and how to avoid or treat them; how to walk safely on snow and ice; winter driving; and more.

The guide is available at www.osha.gov/SLTC/emergencypreparedness/guides/winterstorms.html.

CNA offers new insurance policy

CNA, Chicago, with Victor O. Schinnerer & Co. Inc., Chevy Chase, Md., CNA's managing general underwriter partner for 55 years, now is offering Artisan Contractors Errors & Omissions and Pollution coverage.

The policy was designed to address a contractor's true exposures, including claims alleging faulty workmanship, design errors or omissions, and the use of defective materials or products.

Artisan Contractors Errors & Omissions and Pollution provides coverage for wrongful acts arising out of the insured's faulty workmanship and design services performed on his or her behalf. The policy is available in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. Territories, excluding the Virgin Islands.

For more information about Artisan Contractors Errors & Omissions and Pollution, go to www.nrca.net/member/safety/ins.

NRCA employee receives McCawley Award

Mark Graham, NRCA's associate executive director of technical services, has received the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association's (MRCA's) 2012 James Q. McCawley Award for outstanding service to the roofing industry.

Graham holds a bachelor's degree in architectural engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. He joined NRCA in 1993 and is responsible for the association's Technical Services Section. In 2009, Graham received ASTM International's William C. Cullen Award for distinguished contributions and leadership to the field of roofing and waterproofing.

Established in 1969, the MRCA award is named for James Q. McCawley who dedicated his life to the advancement of the roofing industry. The award is presented annually to an individual in recognition for outstanding service to the roofing industry.


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