Four Easy Steps to Help You in the Event of a Natural Disaster

As Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, we can only hope for everyone’s safety.  If a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy impacts you, do you know how to safeguard your records or how to retrieve them?



Here are 4 easy steps to help you in the event of a natural disaster:

1.  Create an Electronic Backup Set of Records

  • Always keep an extra set of electronic backup records in a safe place away from your originals.
  • One advantage of preparing your own taxes with tax software is you have control over saving your own copies of tax files.  Always save your tax return as a PDF file and back it up on a flash drive or CD.
  • Email yourself a copy of your PDF file(s) so even if your computer is inaccessible, you can access your emailed PDF file from any computer.
  • Banks and financial institutions can provide electronic copies of important documents.  Don’t forget you can access that information online.

2.  Order Transcripts or Copies From the IRS

  • If you still can’t access your tax records you can request backup copies of previously filed tax returns and all attachments by filing Form 4506.
  • You can also request transcripts by filing Form 4506-T.  Transcripts show most line items including your adjusted gross income.  Transcripts can also be ordered online or by calling (800)908-9946.

3.  Document Valuables

  • Always photograph or videotape contents of your home to help prove market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims.
  • Store photographs and videos outside your home.
  • Snap pictures of valuables on your cell phone and email the pictures to yourself or a trusted friend or relative so you can access them from any computer.

4.  Check the IRS Tax Relief Site

  • IRS provides relief to individuals and businesses who live in areas that have been declared a major natural disaster by the federal government.
  • Relief can be in the form of postponement of tax filing and payment deadlines.
  • Recent victims of Hurricane Isaac have an extended tax filing and tax payment deadline of January 11, 2013 for their 2011 taxes.
  • If you are affected by disaster, you can also call (866)562-5227 to speak to a specialist trained to handle disaster related issues.
  • For additional information regarding assistance in the event of a disaster, check the IRS Disaster Losses Kit for Individuals.

* The President has signed disaster declarations for individuals impacted by Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey.  Find out how to claim casualty losses if you are a victim of National Disaster in an area federally declared as a disaster.

How do you save your important documents?  Do you have any helpful tips to share?


Lisa Lewis is a CPA and the TurboTax Blog Editor. Lisa has 15 years of experience in tax preparation. Her success is attributed to being able to interpret tax laws and help clients better understand them. Lisa also has been a TurboTax product user for many years and understands how the software program works. In addition to extensive tax experience, Lisa also has a very well-rounded professional background. She has held positions as a public auditor, controller, and operations manager. Prior to becoming the TurboTax Blog Editor, she was a Technical Writer for the TurboTax Consumer Group and worked on a project to write new FAQs to help customers better understand tax laws. She could also be seen helping TurboTax customers with tax questions during Lifeline. For Lisa, getting timely and accurate information out to customers to help them is paramount.

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