Hurricane Irma Relief and Support

Some of us took the warnings seriously and some of us thought ‘eh, it’s all hype, it won’t be a big storm. Regardless of your thoughts before the storm, I think we can all agree Irma left many people across the Caribbean and Florida in devastation. There are entire islands that had to be evacuated, businesses in the Florida Keys that were destroyed, and homes across Florida that have become uninhabitable.

In addition to the anxiety and emotional rollercoaster, the financial toll of preparing for the storm and the subsequent repairs is no small load. To help with some of that burden, financial institutions are providing some relief – relief that can go towards replenishing food that was lost during the power outages, repairs, and evacuation costs.

Loan Forbearance or Deferment

Loan servicers are suspending or reducing loan payments for up to 90-days. These loans include student loans, mortgages, and car loans. What does this mean? Or more importantly, what does it NOT mean? The amounts that you would have paid don’t just go away forever. You will have to make up the payments at a later time – typically at the end of the loan.  Also, most loans will still accrue interest on the outstanding balance. This financial help is not automatic, so it is important that you make arrangements with your creditor before you stop making payments.

Waiver of Bank Fees

In the chaos of preparing for a storm that was expected to be more dangerous than Hurricane Andrew, it was probably difficult to manage your bank accounts. Some people overdrew on their accounts or used an ATM from another institution. Typically, these actions would come with fees assessed by your bank.  To alleviate some of the stress, banks are waiving bank fees related to overdrafts and ATM fees. Some banks are even giving streamlined short-term loans with minimum to no credit checks.

Loans from Retirement Accounts

I would recommend this option as a last resort, but for a brief period of time, you can use your retirement funds to subsidize some of your expenses during this difficult time. Be mindful that the tax implications of early distributions would still apply (i.e., early distribution penalty). As usual, you can also borrow from your employer -sponsored retirement plan (e.g., 401(K), 403(B), etc.) and avoid early withdrawl penatlies if you repay the loan within five years. The only difference is that the withdrawal process is more streamlined – in other words there is less ‘red tape’ to access the funds.    

IRS Relief

The IRS extended the due date to file returns for individuals and small businesses that are on extension. In other words if you or your small business filed an extension and had a due date of September 15 (for SCorp) or October 16 (for Individuals), you now have until January 31, 2018 to file your return. Note however, that interest will accrue on outstanding balances if you end up owing because the IRS considers those amounts to have been due in April (i.e., before the hurricane).

 

It is important that you contact your financial institutions to find out your eligibility. And even if you do not reside in the affected area, you may still be eligible if you are assisting certain relatives that are in the impacted regions.

I hope this was helpful and I pray that you all remain safe during this very active hurricane season.

 

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Written by Desnoyers CPA

Desnoyers CPA

Known for her friendly, outgoing nature and her rare talent for financial foresight, Lydia Desnoyers has been serving individuals and small businesses in Florida since 2010. After earning her Master’s Degree in Accounting from Nova Southeastern University and her Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Florida State University, she became a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Fraud Examiner.