News Release

Contact: Yating Campbell
For Immediate Release

Tax Relief Available for Wildfire Survivors

Sacramento – When a disaster strikes, the Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, CPA reassures survivors there are a number of resources available to help individuals and business owners.

"I am stunned and heartbroken by the level of damage caused by these wildfires as they rage across California. State agencies, non-profit organizations, companies, and constituents throughout California are joining together to provide assistance to the survivors of wildfires ravaging California. We stand ready to help," said Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, CPA. The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration offers a number of ways to receive tax assistance including: tax extension to file returns, relief from penalties and/or interest from some taxes and fees, and replacing copies of records lost to damage.

The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) offers a disaster loss deduction, where victims can claim a disaster loss in either the year the disaster occurred or in the prior tax year if a disaster is declared by the Governor. Taxpayers claiming the disaster loss should write the name of the disaster in red ink at the top of the tax return to alert FTB to expedite the refund. If taxpayers are e-filing, they should follow the software instructions to enter disaster information. Taxpayers who need copies of lost or damaged state tax returns should complete FTB Form 3516. FTB is also allowing special tax relief for fire survivors. The automatic extension for affected taxpayers to file 2016 California tax returns has been extended to January 31, 2018. FTB's Disaster Loss Publication 1034 has additional information and the most recent list of declared disasters.

The IRS has also granted disaster relief to individuals and businesses in several counties affected by the wildfires. This relief applies to various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on October 8, 2017. The Governor's Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) has information on what you should know before applying for federal individual assistance..

Individuals and/or businesses with taxable property damaged or destroyed by disasters declared as "state of emergencies" may be eligible for property tax relief. In many cases, the damaged property can be reappraised in its current condition, with some taxes refunded to the property owner. If rebuilt in a like or similar manner, the property will retain its prior value (Proposition 13) for tax purposes.

To qualify for property tax relief, you must file a claim with your county assessor's office within the time specified. The loss estimate must be at least $10,000 of current market value to qualify. Owners of eligible property may also apply for deferral of the next property tax installment on the regular secured roll or tax payments on the supplemental roll, without penalties or interest. Claims for property tax relief and applications for deferral of property taxes must be filed with County Assessors' offices. You can contact your County Assessor for assistance. For further information on property tax disaster relief, please see the Frequently Asked Questions or the Disaster Relief Property Tax Guide on the Board of Equalization's website.

For disaster assistance resources, visit the Disaster Assistance Improvement Program online. For a list of additional resources; including Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) assistance, Federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), Disaster Distress Helpline, or advice for salvaging damaged family treasures, visit the California Office of Emergency Services' Wildfire Recovery Resources. You can also find your closest local assistance center and hours of operation. If you'd like to donate or volunteer, visit California Volunteers.

"As the clean-up process begins from the onslaught of wildfires, and people return to burned areas to rebuild their lives and businesses, we need to provide information and assistance to help speed the recovery process," said Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, CPA.

Board Member Fiona Ma, CPA, was elected to the Board of Equalization in November 2014, to represent the Second Equalization District. She represents 9.5 million residents in many of California's coastal counties, from Del Norte to Santa Barbara, including the entire San Francisco Bay Area. Ms. Ma served in the California State Assembly from 2006 to 2012, serving as the first Asian woman Assembly Speaker pro Tempore since 1850. While in the Assembly, Ms. Ma focused on improving California, authoring legislation to create jobs and grow the state's economy. As an Executive Board Member of the National Conference of State Legislators, she worked to keep California's economy competitive with other states. Ms. Ma has been a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in California since 1992. For more information, visit Board Member Ma's website.

The five-member California State Board of Equalization (BOE) is a publicly elected tax board. The BOE serves a significant role in the assessment and administration of property taxes.

Note: This news release may discuss complex tax laws and concepts. It may not address every situation, and is not considered written advice under Revenue and Taxation Code section 6596. Changes in law or regulations may have occurred since the time this news release was written. If there is a conflict between the text of this news release and the law, decisions will be based upon the law and not this news release.

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