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IRS Tips for Preparing for Natural Disasters

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Hurricane season is here, and with it the Internal Revenue Service offers the following advice to taxpayers who may be affected by storms and other natural disasters:

Update Emergency Plans. A disaster can strike at any time, so be sure to review emergency plans annually. Personal and business situations change over time, as do preparedness needs. When employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, they should update plans accordingly  employees of the changes. Make plans ahead of time and be sure to practice them.

Create Electronic Copies of Key Documents. Keep a duplicate set of key documents in a safe place such as a waterproof container and away from the original set. Documents should include bank statements, tax returns, identifications and insurance policies. It’s easier than ever now that many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically, and financial information is available on the Internet. Even if the original documents are provided only on paper, these can be scanned into an electronic format. This way, you can download them to a storage device such as an external hard drive or USB flash drive, or burn them to a CD or DVD.

Document Your Valuables. It’s a good idea to photograph or videotape the contents of any home, especially items of higher value. Documenting these items ahead of time will make it easier to claim any available insurance and tax benefits after the disaster strikes. The IRS has a disaster loss workbook, Publication 584, which can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings. Photographs can help anyone prove the fair market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims. Ideally, photos should be stored with a friend or family member who lives outside the area.

Get Help From the IRS. In the case of a federally declared disaster, an affected taxpayer can call 866-562-5227 to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues. Back copies of previously filed tax returns and all attachments, including Forms W-2, can be requested by filing Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. Alternatively, transcripts showing most line items on these returns can be ordered 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.

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