The IRS on Friday gave people hit by hurricanes last year an extra six months to decide whether to claim losses related to the disasters on 2004 or 2005 tax returns.

Taxpayers living in regions of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas hit by hurricanes can claim unreimbursed losses on their 2005 tax returns, or they can claim the losses by amending their 2004 tax returns.

The deadline for amending the previous year's return is now Oct. 16, extended from April 17. The decision does not extend the regular tax return filing deadlines.

The IRS instructed taxpayers to write, in red ink, the name of the hurricane on top of their tax forms. The tax agency also has a special publication and a disaster hot line, 1-866-562-5227, to help taxpayers who suffered losses in the hurricanes.