Prepare For Natural Disasters
With the substantial risk of hurricanes in the southeastern region and the possibility of tornadoes, fires, earthquakes and other natural disasters throughout the nation, it is important for all Americans to take reasonable steps to be prepared. These steps could include securing and duplicating essential documents, creating lists of collections and other valuable property and understanding how to find assistance. By planning ahead, taxpayers will be better able to recover financially from a natural disaster.
1. Secure Documents – Taxpayers should keep important documents in waterproof containers and in a secure location. The important items include tax returns, birth certificates, deeds to homes and other property, insurance policies and similar documents. Some individuals choose to have a copy of these documents held by a relative or friend in a different state.
2. Copies of Documents – Some documents are available only on paper but should be converted to a digital file format. Once items are digitized, using commercial cloud–based storage systems can be helpful and will provide additional security.
3. Inventory of Valuables – Taxpayers should have a detailed inventory of valuable property. Take photos or videos of collections, art, jewelry or other valuable items. It is also helpful to have a general description of property, which may include the make and model numbers of some items. Keeping detailed documentation of possessions may be helpful when filing claims for insurance purposes or tax benefits.
4. How to Get Help – If a natural disaster strikes, it is important to understand how to obtain assistance. Contact insurance agents to report any losses. Some financial institutions are able to provide statements and electronic documents that may assist in rebuilding financial affairs. The IRS.gov site has a helpful page with the title "Reconstructing Records."
5. IRS Assistance – After every federal disaster declaration, the IRS provides assistance. The IRS Tax Relief in Disaster Situations webpage on IRS.gov may be helpful. In many cases, the IRS allows a delayed filing or tax payment date. The date will be specific by geographic area, which can be found on IRS.gov. There also is an IRS disaster hotline at (866) 562-5227.
6. Disaster Loss Deduction – If a substantial loss occurs, taxpayers may qualify for a disaster loss deduction. The uninsured or unreimbursed disaster loss may be deductible under the rules set forth in IRS Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters and Thefts.