Editor’s note: Content provided by the Internal Revenue Service. Consult your financial or tax adviser regarding your individual situation.
Planning what to do in case of a disaster is an important part of being prepared. The Internal Revenue Service encourages taxpayers to safeguard their records. Some simple steps can help taxpayers protect financial and tax records in case of disasters.
Listed below are tips for individuals on preparing for a disaster.
1. Recordkeeping: Take advantage of paperless recordkeeping for financial and tax records. Many people receive bank statements and documents by e-mail. This method is an outstanding way to secure financial records. Important tax records such as W-2s, tax returns and other paper documents can be scanned onto an electronic format. You can copy them onto a "key" or "jump drive" periodically and then keep the electronic records in a safe place.
2. Document Valuables: The IRS has disaster loss workbooks for individuals that can help you compile a room-by-room list of your belongings. One option is to photograph or videotape the contents of your home, especially items of greater value. You should store the photos in a safe place away from the geographic area at risk. This will help you recall and prove the market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims.
3. Update Emergency Plans: Emergency plans should be reviewed annually. Individual taxpayers should make sure they are saving documents everybody should keep, including W-2s, home closing statements and insurance records. Make sure you have a means of receiving severe weather information; if you have a NOAA Weather Radio, put fresh batteries in it. Make sure you know what you should do if threatening weather approaches.
4. Count on the IRS: In the event of a disaster, the IRS stands ready to help. The IRS has valuable information you can request if your records are destroyed. If you have been impacted by a federally declared disaster, you may receive copies or transcripts of previously filed tax returns free of charge by submitting Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, clearly identified as a disaster related request.