The tornado that plowed through Moore, Okla., Monday afternoon now rivals the one that hit in the same area on May 3, 1999. The National Weather Service, after its personnel surveyed the damage, has classified the May 20, 2013, twister as a category 5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale.
Click for larger view of the two EF5 tornadoes that hit Moore, Okla., 14 years apart. Image courtesy Norman, Okla., National Weather Service office. You also can see the paths of the 1999, 2013 and May 8, 2003, twisters that all touched down in the same area at KFOR-TV NewsChannel 4's interactive map.
President Obama didn't need the official rating to make his call. As the meteorologists were joining disaster recovery volunteers in the Sooner State, the president was declaring five Oklahoma counties -- Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma and Pottawatomie -- as major disaster areas.
That designation means that affected residents have the option to file an amended tax return for 2012 if changes to that return could get them tax money they can use now to make repairs and get their lives somewhat back on track.
The Internal Revenue Service also announced this afternoon that taxpayers in those counties also are eligible for additional tax relief.
The IRS is postponing various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred on Saturday, May 18, the day that the deadly tornado outbreak began.
Individual, business tax relief: Affected individuals and businesses now have until Sept. 30 to file returns and pay any taxes due.
This includes the June 17 and Sept. 16 estimated tax deadlines.
A variety of business tax deadlines also are covered, including the July 31 deadline for second quarter payroll and excise tax returns and the Sept. 3 deadline for truckers filing highway use tax returns.
The IRS will abate any interest, late-payment or late-filing penalty that would otherwise apply to these filings and payments.
In addition, the IRS is waiving failure-to-deposit penalties for federal payroll and excise tax deposits normally due on or after May 18 and before June 3 if the deposits are made by June 3, 2013.
Because the IRS automatically provides the announced relief to any taxpayer located in the disaster area, affected taxpayers don't need to do anything special.
Some outsiders included, too: The IRS noted that other locations may be added in coming days based on additional damage assessments by FEMA.
But for now if you don't live in one of the major disaster areas but you also need tax relief because of the storms, the IRS says it will work with you. This includes folks whose books, records or tax professionals are located in the areas affected by these storms.
In addition, all relief workers who are in Oklahoma helping out as part of a recognized government or philanthropic organization are eligible for this special tax relief.
Volunteers and other affected taxpayers who qualify for the special tax treatment and who live outside the disaster area need to contact the IRS toll-free at (866) 562-5227.
More disaster relief info: Among the relief available to Oklahoma tornado survivors are grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
Federal funding also is available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in the disaster area counties.You can find more on available federal relief can be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) page for the Oklahoma twisters, as well as at DisasterAssistance.gov.
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