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Interview: Tax preparer on fire survivors paying 2022 taxes

Common tax forms
Common tax forms

Most Californians received a month-long extension Monday to file their 2022 taxes.

That’s partially due to North State Congressional members hoping to get federal tax relief for wildfire survivors.

On Tuesday, NSPR’s Jamie Jiang spoke with Chico tax preparer Tracie Hannick, who helps Camp Fire survivors file taxes on their PG&E settlement money.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

On Monday’s Tax Day extension

Tax season was supposed to end yesterday (Monday, Oct. 16). But mid morning, the IRS extended it until Nov. 16 for 55 of the 58 counties in California. Lassen, Shasta and Modoc counties are not extended — their tax day ended yesterday. But for the rest of us, we have another month.

On the documents fire victims should bring to their preparer

I don't think any tax preparer is doing their due diligence if they don't require the determination letter and the information of every check that was received in this year and in prior years. Because really, the settlements encompass all losses, insurance payouts and income since 2018.

On how long the tax preparation process takes for Fire Victim Trust payees

It depends on how big their loss is. Did insurance cover losses in the beginning? How many checks are received? What were the losses for? There are so many components, so it could take two to three times as long as a normal tax return. I say normal, there isn't really any script for what a tax return is, but fire victims, their taxes can take two to three times longer because it's really a puzzle of trying to save them the most amount of money while accurately representing what happened.

On HR 5863, a bill that would relieve wildfire settlements of federal taxes

I think the majority of fire victims — survivors and payees of all of this money — are all watching it. I think that they are keeping an eye on it. I think that there is some hope that it will pass. But I also don't know that it's holding people up from filing. I think that they know they can go back and amend and get their refunds back. And if that happened, they would get interest on that money from the IRS, which at this point isn't too bad of a rate. So I don't think it's delaying anybody.

I think that the people who aren't filing are kind of digging in their heels, and maybe trying to make a point about it, that it shouldn't be taxable. And kind of hoping that in the end that they’re right and [can say] see we didn't need to file after all.

Jamie was NSPR’s wildfire reporter and Report For America corps member. She covered all things fire, but her main focus was wildfire recovery in the North State. Before NSPR, Jamie was at UCLA, where she dabbled in college radio and briefly worked as a podcast editor at the Daily Bruin.