IRS to delay enforcement actions in Katrina-hit areas

By JIM ABRAMS

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The IRS will put off until after the new year enforcement action against people in Hurricane Katrina-hit areas who are late in paying their income taxes, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said Friday.

Everson, said that, after consultation with career officials at the agency, he decided not to further extend the Oct. 16 deadline for the approximately 1.2 million taxpayers in hurricane-hit areas of Lousiana and Mississippi to file their 2005 returns.

The deadline had previously been extended several times in light of the many people who lost homes or financial records in the storm.

But he said a second decision was made to put off enforcement activities -- collecting back taxes or sending out late notices -- until 2007.

In normal years, he said, "we don't knock on people's doors just before the holidays." In the case of Katrina victims, he said, "we are going to be very sensitive. Many people have legitimate reasons why they are going to have difficulty paying, and we want it to go as smoothly as possible."

Everson added that "there was no politics in any of this," dismissing the idea that the IRS wanted to avoid action that would put the administration in a bad light just before the Nov. 7 midterm elections.

He did acknowledge that the IRS is "not a popular agency" and "you don't want to insert yourself into what is a highly charged environment" in the runup to the election.

The agency will go forward with enforcement actions in high income cases or circumstances where time limitations were running out.

"We want to resume our enforcement activities in an orderly manner, and in a way that is fair to the taxpayers," he said.


On the Net:

IRS: http://www.irs.gov/

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