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

By JOYCE M. ROSENBERG Markets Associated Press

POST-HURRICANE TAX HELP

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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.

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

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 percent in a survey taken in December. The number of owners expecting the economy to remain the same was 45 percent, up from 34 percent. Ten percent expect a recession, down from 12 percent.

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 percent in December. Fourteen percent see opportunities in the next three to 6 months, versus 18 percent. There was little change among those forecasting growth opportunities in the next six months to a year — 30 percent versus 31 percent.

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.

VIDEO MARKETING

Business owners who want to use video in their digital marketing can learn how at an online seminar sponsored by SCORE, the organization that provides free counseling to small companies. The seminar will be held Thursday, Sept. 21 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Learn more and register at http://bit.ly/2vaNXXH .

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg . Her work can be found here: https://apnews.com/search/joyce%20rosenberg