The Persian Gulf's official designation as a combat zone has triggered a number of federal tax-relief provisions for taxpayers serving in Operation Desert Storm.

According to Jack Cheskaty, Internal Revenue Service director in Boise, members of the armed forces and support personnel in the Persian Gulf assigned to Operation Desert Storm will not have to file 1990 federal income tax returns until at least 180 days after they leave the Persian Gulf. No penalty or interest will be charged during this period on any tax due for 1990.The IRS will also suspend all tax return examinations and action to collect any back taxes owed by these taxpayers for years prior to 1990 until at least 180 days after the taxpayer leaves the combat zone. And no penalty or interest will be added to any tax due during this.

The relief provisions apply not only to armed forces and support personnel serving in the combat zone but also to their spouses, Cheskaty said.

Military pay received by enlisted personnel while serving in the combat zone is exempt from income tax. Up to $500 a month can be tax exempt for commissioned officers. The exclusion generally extends to periods of hospitalization resulting from injury or sickness suffered while serving in the combat zone.

In the event a member of the armed forces dies while serving in the combat zone, no tax is due for the year of death or any prior year in which the person served in the combat zone. In addition, any unpaid tax for years prior to service in the combat zone is forgiven.

The combat zone designation became effective Jan. 17 and covers Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, certain parts of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Taxpayers in the combat zone, their spouses or tax representatives, should contact the IRS immediately if they receive any correspondence about any collection or audit matter covered by the combat zone provisions. The toll-free number is 1-800-TAX-1040.