It’s Hurricane Season! Here’s How to Safeguard Your Documents from Natural Disaster?

Tax Planning

Hurricane Isaac struck the Gulf Coast this week and although it was downgraded to a tropical storm, it is still causing devastating floods in Louisiana and Mississippi.  With hurricane season upon us, do you know what you would do if you lost important documents like your tax records and how to safeguard them?

Natural Disaster
Natural Disaster

Here are helpful tips to help you safeguard your records:

Create an Electronic Backup Set of Records

  • You should keep an extra set of electronic backup records in a safe place away from your original set.
  • One advantage of preparing your own taxes with tax software is you can 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.
  • I always suggest that you 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.

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.
  • Special tax law provisions may help taxpayers and businesses recover financially from the impact of disaster especially when the federal government declares their location to be a major disaster area.  Click on IRS’ s Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief for Individuals and Businesses for more information.
  • 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.

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.

Following these tips will give you less to worry about in the event of a disaster.  What plans have you made to safeguard your important documents?  Do you have any special tips to share?