Property taxes. Temporary property tax reductions are available for homes destroyed or damaged by fire. The property owner must apply to the County Assessor within one year from the date of the fire for tax relief. County Assessor contact information is here.
           
             Comment.
This relief is available for all property where value is reduced more than $10,000 by a fire, not just property in the wildfire areas.

For people who live in counties where Governor Brown has declared a state of emergency, fire victims can apply for a deferral of their next property tax payment without penalties or interest. To date, this list includes Butte, Lake, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Solano, Sonoma, and Yuba
counties.

The Sonoma County Assessor announced, working with CAL Fire and local fire departments, it  will reduce taxes for damaged properties without taxpayers needing to apply. It hopes to have corrected 2017-2018 property tax bills to property owners by Dec. 11, 2017. In Sonoma County, affected taxpayers will have a 30-day deferral period following receipt of a corrected tax bill. Taxpayers with impound accounts should contact their lender to inform them of the change in status of their property.

Mortgage payments. Mortgage payments are still due for a destroyed or damaged home. But, most lenders will give a 90-day postponement of payments. Contact the lender for assistance.

Tax due dates. President Trump has declared that a major disaster exists in the State of California. This declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area (Butte, Lake, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Solano, Sonoma, and Yuba counties.)

IRS Notice CA-2017-06 announced that deadlines falling on or after Oct. 8, 2017, and before Jan. 31, 2018 are granted additional time to file through Jan. 31, 2018. This includes taxpayers who had a valid extension to file their 2016 return that ran out on Oct. 16, 2017. It also includes the quarterly estimated income tax payments originally due on Jan. 16, 2018, and the quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on Oct. 31, 2017. In addition, penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after Oct. 8, 2017, and before Oct. 23, 2017, will be abated as long as the deposits are made by Oct. 23, 2017. California automatically follows the IRS extended deadlines to file/pay taxes until Jan. 31, 2018. Write “CA Wildfires” in red ink at the
top of the tax return to alert FTB the return is disaster-related.
          Comment. The IRS has a special page dedicated to Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief for Individuals and Businesses.

Casualty losses. When you or your client have the time or energy to think about casualty loss deductions, Western CPE and Vern Hoven have prepared a one-hour webcast on disaster losses. While it refers to the hurricanes, it’s for us Californians too. There is NO CHARGE for the webcast. Use coupon EVH17 at checkout. Details are here.

Oh, the tales we tell. Holly had a house fire three years ago. She and her two kids were in temporary housing for nine months. As a mother and grandmother, I have these observations about house fires: (1) watching the firefighters work to save the house makes you appreciate and love them more; (2) getting the house boarded up before nightfall is hard; (3) a private insurance adjuster showed up “to help” while the firefighters were still on the property; (4) emergency housing was quickly covered by the family, then a hotel and finally a condo were provided by the insurance company for the long construction job, but there is no place like home; (5) Holly and the kids only had the clothes on their back and the shoes on their feet — no toothbrushes or combs — and no desire to shop after a fire; (7) smoke and water damage are terrible even in parts of the house that look untouched; (8) fire victims discover and mourn lost items for months after a fire; (9) although it might not be PTSD, it seems like it to the victims and family; and (10) no matter the insurance company or coverage, the payments are never quite enough.

After you personally deal with the California wildfires or help a client through their recovery, you will have a lot more to say about the wildfires and their unfathomable destruction than these few thoughts.

Our best wishes in this tragic time,
Sharon Kreider and Karen Brosi