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

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UPDATE 10.24.16: The IRS announced that 401(k)s and similar employer-sponsored retirement plans can make loans and hardship distributions to victims of Hurricane Matthew and members of their families. As a result, participants of these plans may be eligible to take advantage of certain streamlined loan procedures and relaxed hardship distribution rules. Currently, parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida qualify for individual assistance, and you can visit the FEMA disaster declarations website for a complete list of eligible counties.

UPDATE 10.13.16: As the October 17th extension deadline approaches, the IRS has advised those affected by Hurricane Matthew that they may qualify for late-filing penalty relief. In areas with disaster declarations for individual assistance, taxpayers will have until March 15, 2017 to file returns otherwise due on Monday, October 17. 

Hurricane Matthew is taking aim at central Florida’s Atlantic coast this week and President Obama has declared a state of emergency.  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?

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.
  • 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 or Form 4506T-EZ. Transcripts show most line items including your adjusted gross income.  Transcripts can also be ordered online at IRS.gov 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 the IRS 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?

2 responses to “It’s Hurricane Season! Here’s How to Safeguard Your Documents from Natural Disaster”

  1. Great tips you have there! Important documents should be kept in a safe place, even hurricane or floods cannot even reach it. Retreiving ruined or lost documents can be a great hassle, so take the time securing them.

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