The month of May is an excellent time to begin reviewing your emergency preparedness plan. Part of that plan includes taking steps to protect personal documents and tax-related information.
1. Secure Key Documents — You should gather your tax returns, birth certificates, deeds to property and insurance policies and place them in a waterproof container or a secure location. Many individuals also create a duplicate of key documents and leave those with a trusted person or store them on an external drive.
2. Document Valuables — If there is a natural disaster, you could suffer the loss of valuable collections, furniture and other items in your home. You will have a much better opportunity to receive compensation from an insurance company or claim tax benefits for a disaster loss if you have good records. IRS Publication 584 includes disaster-loss workbooks that may help you compile lists of property.
3. Rebuild After a Disaster — If you do experience a disaster, you may need assistance from the government or your insurance company. If you have lost some or all of your tax records, the IRS has a webpage on " Reconstructing Records After a Natural Disaster or Casualty Loss" on www.irs.gov.
4. IRS Assistance — If the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issues a disaster declaration for your area, the IRS often will postpone tax-filing and tax-payment deadlines. You do not need to call the IRS. The IRS computers can identify taxpayers who are located in covered disaster areas. If you have tax-related questions on a disaster in your area, contact the IRS at (866) 562-5227 to speak with a specialist. The IRS has trained staff who can answer disaster-related questions.
While individuals all hope not to be involved in a natural disaster, it could happen to you without notice. There are additional natural disaster preparations that will help protect you on www.irs.gov. There is also a webpage on the FEMA website with a recommended set of emergency supplies for a natural disaster. Check out "Build a Kit" on FEMA.gov for more information.