From the IRS Regarding Preparing for Natural Disasters

The Internal Revenue Service offers tips for disaster preparedness on their website for those who may be affected by storms or other natural disasters. They offer a special toll-free number to taxpayers in federally-declared disaster areas, staffed with IRS specialists who are trained to handle disaster-related issues.  To read the complete listing of recent tax relief offered to Victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, please visit IRS.gov/newsroom/tax-relief-in-disaster-situations.

Update Emergency Plans

No one knows when disaster will strike… today, tomorrow or years from now.   To ensure readiness, review your emergency plans annually. Personal and business situations change over time, as do preparedness needs.  It is smart practice to review emergency plans with family and employees to ensure everyone is up to date with changes in roles, meeting locations and a phone listing of key contacts (how many phone numbers do you know by heart) in the event of a disaster.  Make plans ahead of time and be sure to practice them.

Create Electronic Copies of Key Documents

Maintain duplicate sets of key documents (i.e., bank statements, tax returns, identifications and insurance policies) in a safe place, such as a waterproof container, and away from the original set.  It is a good idea having a scanned copy of these sets on a flash drive as well as physical copies.

This is pretty simple to achieve since many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically now, and much financial information is available on the Internet. If original documents are provided only via paper, scan them into electronic format. This way, you can download them to a storage device or cloud storage.  

Document Valuables

Another great practice is to photograph or videotape the contents of any home or business, especially items of high value. Recording these items ahead of time will make it easier to quickly claim any available insurance and tax benefits after the disaster strikes. Plus this form of documentation provides a date & time stamp for your valuables.  Refer to the IRS disaster loss workbook, Publication 584, which can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings.

Photographs can help prove the fair market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims. It would be ideal to store photos with a trustworthy friend or family member who lives outside the area.

IRS Ready to Help

In the case of a federally declared disaster, an affected taxpayer can call 1-866-562-5227 to speak with an IRS specialist who’s trained to handle disaster-related issues.

You can request copies of prior years previously-filed tax returns, including Forms W-2, by filing Form 4506 (Request for Copy of Tax Return).  You can also order transcripts showing most line items on these returns through the Get Transcript link on IRS.gov, by calling 1-800-908-9946 or by using Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.

We would love to hear feedback if you have personal experiences or tips you would like to share on disaster preparedness, so please comment below.  Sharing valuable advice can only help each other.   

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