It’s been an incredibly difficult week. From the Boston Marathon bombings that continue to unfold even as we go to press, to the poison-laced letters sent to President Obama and and at least two more elected leaders and of course, the devastation and loss out of West, Texas following the catastrophic fertilizer explosion, the human condition has been put to the test.
Even as the nation reels and ultimately begins its healing process, there are a few announcements, especially surrounding Boston, that many may not be aware of.
IRS Announces Extension
You may recall the Boston Marathon bombs occurred on April 15th, the deadline for 2012 tax filings. As a result, the Internal Revenue Service announced on Thursday that it would be extending the tax deadline for those in that area.
Taxpayers who were impacted by those explosions in Boston have been given a three month extension if they need it. It automatically applies for anyone who lives within Suffolk County, MA. This is the county Boston is in.
For those who live outside the county limits of Suffolk and who were impacted by the bombings may also request an extension. You’ll need to call a special number set up by the IRS – but you won’t be able to do this until April 23rd, which is next Tuesday. That number is 1-866-562-5227.
This means the deadline for those qualifying for this relief will therefore be pushed back to July 15. There will be no payment or filing penalties assessed until after that date passes. That said, it is the government, so there will be a 3% interest charge, compounded daily (of course) on any taxes after the original April 15 deadline.
While making the announcement, IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller took the opportunity to express his agency’s sorrow,
Our hearts go out to the people affected by this tragic event… We want victims and others affected by this terrible tragedy to have the time they need to finish their individual tax returns.
You can learn more about the extension by visiting the IRS website as well.
Fraudulent Boston Marathon Bombings Charities
Even as so many begin living out some of their darkest days, there are no shortage of those wishing to do more harm via technology and theft. Before Monday was even over, there were more than a few websites that popped up and registered various domain names all in the name of charitable efforts on behalf of the victims. It’s tragic and it’s almost as though vultures are doing nothing but waiting on tragedy to occur so that they can take advantage.
Americans are charitable by nature; we seek to help in any way we can. The fact that others will attempt to take advantage of that is sickening; however it doesn’t prevent us from doing what we can. We just tend to be a bit more cautious. The websites that were registered in those earlier hours after the tragedy run the realm. From bostonmarathondonations.com to bostonmarathonattack.com, these are new sites and there’s simply not much known about the foundation from which they’re built.
Reputable nonprofits say fraud rises to the surface within hours following a tragedy and many times, it’s difficult to discern which is reputable and which ones are not. The biggest threat for consumers and donors is the efforts to separate credit card numbers from their owners. Experts caution consumers to proceed cautiously. There also exists the possibility that some scammers will try to infect computers with malware, often with a link promising “exclusive” news or video of the incident.
In fact, there’s already been one fraudster who set up a Twitter account minutes after the bombing and who claimed to be associated with the Boston Marathon organization. The @_BostonMarathon account promised to donate $1 for every retweet. After users called it out as a fake, Twitter quickly shut the account down – but not before it received more than 50,000 retweets.
H. Art Taylor, president and chief executive officer of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance said on Tuesday,
Social media, in particular, makes it very easy to reach a lot of people quickly, when emotions are running high and people feel the need to take action, any action, to help.
Precautions and Recognition
Fortunately, there are a number of precautions donors can put into place. First, it’s important to recognize just how big of a problem it is. In fact, the Better Business Bureau says these scams are “likely” and providing your credit card number to the wrong person can present huge problems – and worse, those problems can sometimes be time consuming and frustrating to overcome.
The Boston tragedy reminds us of another scam, this time, courtesy of a natural disaster. Hurricane Sandy resulted in thousands of websites being brought live and in fact, the New Jersey Attorney General and Division of Consumer Affairs are currently suing to shut down a website for the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation, which they say raised more than $630,000 in cash donations yet gave less than 1% to victims. A judge is expected to rule next week on this case, but it’s illustrates just how widespread the problem is and how gullible some of us can be.
What You Can Do
Donors should look first to those reputable, time tested charities that promote relief efforts. Check with the Better Business Bureau if you’re unsure and if something doesn’t feel right, avoid it. There are many credible charities that you can make your donations with. Also, be sure to check to ensure a charity is registered; if it’s not, consider it a red flag. That means there’s no oversight at all associated with where the money goes.
Finally, and this is important, remember that for your donation to be tax deductible, it must have a tax exempt status from the IRS. Credible charities have these statuses in place before the first donation is ever accepted. Finally, the Better Business Bureau reminds consumers that funds defined for a specific family or individual might not qualify for tax exempt status, so keep that in mind as well.