IRS tips to keep your records safe
Being financially prepared before a natural disaster strikes can make it quicker and easier for you to begin the recovery process after an earthquake, storm, flood or fire. Here are some tips from the Internal Revenue Service on how to safeguard your personal and business financial information so you'll be ready when the unexpected occurs.
Back-up your records electronically
Keep a set of back-up records in a safe place by scanning or downloading them to your personal computer. Then create a backup disk or store them on an external hard drive. Another option is to utilize a secure and reputable online storage or "cloud" service. These records should include tax returns, insurance policies, bank statements, receipts, birth and marriage certificates and other important papers. If you already use online banking with your financial institution, your bank statements are already in electronic form.
Store your back-up disks or external hard drive in a safe place that is also away from your computer. You may want to consider storing your items in a safe deposit box. Certain TCU branches offer safe deposit boxes for rent for a small monthly fee. Check with your branch for availability and details.
Document your valuables
Another way to be prepared for a natural disaster is to photograph or videotape the contents of your home or business, especially items of higher value. A photographic record can help you prove the market value of your items for insurance and casualty loss claims. Store your photos or videos with a friend or family member who lives outside the area.
The IRS has a disaster loss workbook that can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings. Visit www.irs.gov and search for Publication 584 (Casualty, Disaster and Theft-Loss Workbook). A business version of this workbook (Publication 584-B) is also available.
Update your emergency plans
Remember to review and update your emergency plans annually. Personal and business situations change over time as do preparedness needs. For business owners, you should update your emergency plans when you hire new employees or when your company changes functions.
The IRS can help
If a disaster strikes, affected taxpayers may call (866) 562-5227 to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues. You can also request back copies of previous tax returns and all attachments, including Forms W-2, by filing Form 4506 (Request for Copy of Tax Return).