Some natural disasters are more common in the summer. But major events like hurricanes, tornadoes and fires can strike any time. It’s a good idea to plan for what to do in case of a disaster. You can help make your recovery easier by keeping your tax and financial records safe. Here are some basic steps you can take now to prepare:
1. Backup Records Electronically. Many people receive bank statements by email. This is a good way to secure your records. You can also scan tax records and insurance policies onto an electronic format. You can use an external hard drive, CD or DVD to store important records. Be sure you back up your files and keep them in a safe place. If a disaster strikes your home, it may also affect a wide area. If that happens you may not be able to retrieve your records.
2. Document Valuables. Take photos or videos of the contents of your home or business. These visual records can help you prove the value of your lost items. They may help with insurance claims or casualty loss deductions on your tax return. You should store them with a friend or relative who lives out of the area.
3. Update Emergency Plans. Review your emergency plans every year. Update them when your situation changes. Make sure you have a way to get severe weather information. Have a plan for what to do if threatening weather approaches.
4. Get Copies of Tax Returns or Transcripts. Visit IRS.gov to get Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, to replace lost or destroyed tax returns. If you just need information from your return, you can order a free transcript online or by calling 800-908-9946. You can also file Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.
5. Count on the IRS. If you fall victim to a disaster, know that the IRS stands ready to help. You can call the IRS disaster hotline at 866-562-5227 for special help with disaster-related tax issues.
Visit IRS.gov to get more about IRS disaster assistance. Click on the ‘Disaster Relief’ link in the lower left of the home page. You can also get forms and publications anytime on IRS.gov. To get them in the mail, call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).